The Nigerian reggae music icon, Majek Fashek passed away on 1 June, This has been confirmed by his manager, Omenka Uzoma Day, without further details.
In a post on social media, Uzoma Day said, “Today I have been getting pressure calls, well it is true that the African Number 1 legendary icon has gone to be with the Lord his Maker. Let’s celebrate him, his achievements and his family, whatever decisions made by his immediate family, fans will be notified.”
Fashek was born on 6 February 1963, in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. Full name Majekodunmi Fasheke was a songwriter, singer and guitarist popularly referred to as the Rain Maker and Prisoner of Conscience. He appearing at shows in handcuffs and bells, singing to the delight of his passionate fans.
Majek Fashek gained fame and widespread recognition after the release of his 1988 debut solo album Prisoner of Conscience which included his monster hits ‘Send Down the Rain’, ‘Genesis’, ‘Redemption Song’ (Bob Marley cover), ‘Religion Na Politics’. He became a household name in Nigeria and by extension, the continent. By 1989, Fashek won six awards which included Song of the Year, Reggae Artist of the Year and Album of the Year at the then prestigious PMAN Awards.
Majek Fashek released Spirit of Love in 1991 to wide acclaim. The album included ‘Majek Fashek Inna New York’, ‘I’m Not Tired’, ‘I come From The Ghetto’, ‘So Long Too Long’ and other tracks, confirming his international status. Followed by his debut on US TV when he appeared with his band and performed on the Late Night with David Letterman in 1992, he also featured on the Good Morning America Show and many others. He worked with artists such as Tracy Chapman, Jimmy Cliff, Snoop Dogg and many others.
Fashek was married to Rita Fashek who inspired the song ‘Without You’. He moved to the US by the mid-1990s and almost disappeared from the music scene, trailed by rumours of drug abuse and mental breakdowns. In 2015, it was revealed that he was bankrupt and battling drug addiction. He admitted that he needed help, entered into a drug rehabilitation centre in Nigeria where recovered and returned to music. By September 2019, he was rumoured to be dead stemming from fears for his fragile health as he was hospitalised in the UK, but his manager quelled the speculations.
Majek Fashek’s unique style of reggae music was revolutionary, he questioned the authorities and called attention to the ills of Nigerian society while highlighting the importance of love and the unity of Africa.
He introduced a sound he called ‘Pangolo’, he explained in an interview with Business Day in 2017, “Pangolo is a mixture of jazz, rock, hip-hop, Afro-beat; it has all kinds of sounds mixed together in it. Pangolo is the sound of many cultures, if you hear my sound you will hear the talking drum and that’s from the Yoruba culture, Shekere which is from Igbo highlife, Rock n roll which is American, so it’s a sound of many cultures put into one sound. That’s what all these boys are doing now, not their own style. If I decide to produce in London, I won’t capture the sound I want because they only listen to rock sound, but in Nigeria, we are more open to other sounds.”
Jastix a band Majek Fashek was a member of in the early 1980s, the group included Amos McRoy, George Orwell, Black Rice and guitarists Oghene Kologbo who revealed from his base in Paris said, ”I’m in shock on hearing the news, Majek had his ups and downs and he was definitely outstanding, affecting a generation. May he rise in peace.”
Majek Fashek will be remembered as the Rainmaker, one of Nigeria’s finest who brought joy to many and expressed his truth.