Majekodunmi Fasheke, popularly known as Majek Fashek, Nigerian Kpangolo singer and guitarist, passed on in New York on Monday June 1, according to his manager, Uzoma Omenka.
The 57-year-old Majek had been struggling with health problems for a while.
In an Instagram video message, Omenka called on fans of the ‘The Rainmaker’ to celebrate his achievements.
“I would say we should celebrate his achievements; he has done a lot for Nigeria. Whatever the family decides, I will get to you. This is all I have to say for now.”
Majek was born in Benin City to an Edo mother and Ijesha father but identified with his Benin roots. After his parents separated, Fashek remained in Benin City with his mother, and soon joined the choir in his local Aladura church and learned to play the trumpet and guitar whilst composing songs for the choir.
In the early eighties, Fashek, who at the time went by the stage name Rajesh Kanal, joined the group Jastix with McRoy Gregg, and Drummer Black ‘Rice. They were best known as the in-house band on the show, Music Panorama on NTA Benin and toured with fellow reggae group The Mandators. Jastix were also session musicians for upcoming reggae singer Edi Rasta, who would later be known as Evi-Edna Ogholi.
1988–1990: Prisoner of Conscience and I&I Experience
In 1988, shortly after Jastix disbanded, Fashek, who now used the name Majek Fashek, signed with Tabansi Records and began a solo career by releasing the album Prisoner of Conscience. He quickly became Nigeria’s top reggae artist after his song “Send Down The Rain” became the most popular song of the year.
In 1989, he won six PMAN awards for “Song of the Year”, “Album of the Year”, and “Reggae Artist of the Year” among others. Fashek’s next album was I&I Experience which was released in late 1989 under the Tabansi Label.
1991: So Long Too Long and American Invasion
After leaving Tabansi Records, he was signed to CBS Nigeria in the early 1990s and released So Long Too Long. It was included on Putumayo World Music’s first album. In 1990, he was signed to Interscope Records and released the critically acclaimed album Spirit of Love, produced by “Little Steven” Van Zandt. In 1992, he appeared on Late Night with David Letterman in support of his new 1991 album and performed the song “So Long Too Long” for the television audience.
Flame Tree released The Best of Majek Fashek in 1994. He was later dropped by Interscope before moving to Mango, a division of Island Records, as it was more accustomed to marketing reggae internationally. His first album for the company included a cover version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”. He recorded several albums for various labels later, including Rainmaker for Tuff Gong (1997) and Little Patience for Coral (2004).
Fashek’s musical influences include Bob Marley – whom he resembled vocally– Jimi Hendrix, and Fela Kuti. He was one of the original Nigerian artists to be drawn to the music of the Caribbean, specifically reggae, rather than indigenous hybrids such as fuji, jùjú, but has been known to mix these genres into his own style which he called kpangolo. The song “My Guitar”, an ode to his favourite instrument, was also heavily influenced by rock.
Fashek played a supporting role in the 2000 Nollywood movie Mark of the Beast and starred in a commercial for non-alcoholic beverage Diamalt. In 2016, he performed in a comedy show (with more than ten thousand audience in attendance) in Lagos, Nigeria, with a roundly power-filled and soul-lifting performance.
In December 2016, Fashek contributed the song “We Are Not Afraid” to a video featuring 200 celebrities to raise funds for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Human Rights Watch.
Fashek was married to Rita Fashek who inspired the song “Without You”. She Had three sons for him, but they later divorced. In 2015, it was revealed that Fashek was bankrupt and battling drug addiction. After admitting that he needed help, he was admitted into a drug rehabilitation centre in Abuja.
Besides his alleged struggle with drug addiction, other health conditions required his hospitalisation on several occasions. He was rumoured dead in September 2019, but his manager quelled the rumours, confirming that Majek had indeed been critically ill, hospitalised at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, England, and in dire need of financial assistance. Billionaire businessman and philanthropist, Femi Otedola, had pledged to cover all the singer’s medical expenses.
Gofundme by Randy Fashek
Majek’s look-alike son, Randy Fashek, also launched a crowd funding appeal on behalf of his dad:
“Hello ladies and gentlemen, My name is Randy Fashek and I am the first born of Majek Fashek. In an effort to help my dad in his current situation I have set up a Gofundme in which Majek’s supporters can have the opportunity to help.
Thanks to the many amazing supporters, fans, friends, and loved ones for their generous and abundant support and prayers for my dad. Because of your prayers, and through God’s blessings, I am happy to share that my father is not only alive but doing better”, Randy stated in his message.
Majek Fashek’s woes were said to have started with drug addiction that saw to his alarming degeneration both financially and physically. His former wife Rita Fashek confirmed this in an early 2017 interview that was widely published.
Rita, who was his soul mate for over thirty years, explained that she had to re-marry to fend for her children after Majek dumped her all because of his ‘irrevocable addiction to drugs and alcohol’.
“I thought we would live together forever; but as we grew into different rhythms of life’s challenges, I discovered that forever was not enough time to spend with him,” Rita had said in the interview.
Also, in 2017, the late singer denied drug use saying his musical inspiration was from God.
“Let me put the record straight. I never used drugs. I was actually experiencing some spiritual s—t (attack) as at that time. My problem was spiritual and not drugs. I went through some spiritual problems and I paid the price for them, that was what happened to me, it wasn’t about drugs. It wasn’t every story that was published about me that was true. Some people are full of scandals, most people don’t want me to bounce back. Now, let me tell you this, I started the kind of music young artistes are doing now, it’s called “Kpangolo” which I was doing when Fela was alive, he was my hero,” he told Vanguard Newspapers.
“My music cannot fade out because I believe in Jesus Christ,” he said at the time.
New music video
Majek did indeed come out with a new music video entitled Akugbe” off his Weep Not Children album.
According to his manager, ‘this song and the video is dedicated to the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II for his incredible support over the years and of course Majek is a son of the soil too so we had to show off the amazing culture’.
Majek Fashek once said in an interview with Hello Nigeria that “artists are like pastors and prophets; they are special human beings”. How true! His many works that were at once prophetic, philosophical and ‘premonitional’ bear testimony to that fact, beginning with his phenomenal Send Down the Rain that earned him the moniker “The Rainmaker”; Free Mandela… which was fulfilled not long after the release of the music; the very moving Without You, inspired by his wife when the going was rosy – in which he intoned “I can do nothing without you”. As it turned out, things began to fall apart for him after their separation.
Of that experience, he said in the interview with Hello Nigeria:
“My wife broke my heart. When you marry a woman and she broke your heart, that is depression. I went into depression because I was disappointed. I didn’t use drugs. My wife was in love with me in Nigeria. She had three children for me; three boys. Because of the love she have (sic) for me, when I was going to America with my band, I gave her a visa…I wanted my wife to see the other side of the world…But when she come America, her eye come open. That was the thing that led to my depression”.
There is also Religion na politics, in which he predicted that “Muslims go dey fight Christians”; African Unity that will most likely remain relevant in the next century; Beware, in which he warned Americans to beware of politicians who would set the nation on fire (which we are seeing today), Majek Fashek Ina New York, in which he said “You look to the right and look to the left…what you see is confusion, illusion and destruction (the ravage caused by Coronavirus in New York epitomises that), Police Brutality that is playing out all over the world, Hey Rastaman in which he said he didn’t want to die in America (which has just happened), and his very last offering Akugbe (Unity is strength) which he dedicated to the Benin monarch, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II and which will definitely prove its prophetic worth in the years to come.
Listen to these tracks and some of his memorable hits here:
You may also watch his live performance of So Long Too Long in the US in 1992 here:
May the soul of this amazing artist and prophet rest in peace. Amen.