MAJEK FASHEK in New York: ‘So Long, Too Long’ for burial in Nigeria, Still ‘A Prisoner of Conscience in Death’
BY George Elijah Otumu, American Foreign Bureau Chief, Naija Standard Newspaper Inc USA/National President, Nigerian-American Press Association email: firstname.lastname@example.org
AS A REAGGAE KING IN AFRICA, HE REIGNED LIKE COLOSSUS FOR OVER FIVE DECADE, DOMINATED the music airwaves all around the world been a prolific singer, song writer and guitarist. Majekodunmi Fasheke, popularly known as Majek Fashek lived a short, eventful and purposeful life, such that he fulfilled every desires of his heart and made a remarkable impact on the global music stage at 57years. He died in his sleep on 1 June 2020 in New York-the ‘City of Angels’, having battled and fought death so many times so he could live. Yes, he won on several fronts earlier, but on that last day when esophageal cancer, a messenger of death visited, he knew he was still ‘a prisoner of conscience’, and opted to give up so he could transcend into Heaven and forever lived his dream.
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True, Majek touched the lives of many across. He brought happiness, joy, healing, laughter to many homes all by his endowment of music. The raging questions on the lips of many foreign journalists are: ‘Why was Majek abandoned in the morgue in New York?’, ‘Why has Nigerian government forgotten him?’, ‘Why has his state of birth-Edo left his body to be decaying in America?’; ‘How come corporate bodies in Nigeria like Nigeria Brewery Plc, Sony Music and other copyright societies left him to rot in the morgue?’. ‘What is the Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN) doing about it?’, How about all former presidents of PMAN, are they comfortable witnessing this obvious show of shame which is obviously calling their empathy, humanity, credibility; integrity and human-feelings to question?’. All of them should not forget that life is a circle and it rotates round. It was Majek issue yesterday, who knows whose issue it will be today? What if it is your turn to kiss the world goodbye? Will you be happy when your legendary story is being told for generations looking up to you as a model to read that your body daily accrue ice in the morgue in a foreign land, because your native country, friends, corporate bodies treated you like an outcast? Whose side of history will you be remembered? If you do nothing to to ensure Majek is finally given a befitted burial in Nigeria, you are part of Nigeria’s problem and posterity will judge as such, no matter how you spin it. But if you truly help this great Nigerian talent so he may ‘Rest-in-peace’, you will forever remain Nigeria’s hero.
We knew the few people that touched the lives of Majek while he was alive. Hundreds of people benefited from his largesse, benevolence in the prime time of his career, today, they have all gone into hiding. When your time come, there will be no hiding place for you under the sun. Or have you forgotten soon that “One good turn deserve the other?” ‘So Long, Too Long’ Majek need to be buried in Nigeria, how long will he continually be ‘A Prisoner of Conscience in Death’?
Majek worked with Tracy Chapman, Jimmy Cliff, Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Beyonce and Danny Erskine. He shared fame, klieglight, same huge stage with the listed American music stars because he was also a star. Time has come for Tracy, Snoop, Beyonce to the needful, even if Nigeria, Majek’s native country seem non-challant, unfazed, uncared for their place in history, certain to be told someday.
For the record, he was best known in his home country for the 1988 album Prisoner of Conscience, which included the multiple award-winning single “Send Down the Rain”. Also he was known as ‘The Rainmaker’.
In the early eighties Majek, who at the time went by the stage name Rajesh Kanal, joined the group Jastix with musicians McRoy Gregg and Black Rice. The trio soon gained popularity as the in-house band on the NTA Benin show Music Panorama, and toured with fellow reggae group The Mandators. Jastix were also session musicians for up and coming reggae singer Edi Rasta, who would later be known as Evi-Edna Ogholi.
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In 1987, 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 and quickly became Nigeria’s top reggae artist after the song “Send Down The Rain” became the most popular song of the year, and 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, and included the anti-apartheid anthem Free Africa, Free Mandela which sampled Steam‘s Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.
After leaving Tabansi Records, Fashek 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 accustomed to marketing reggae internationally. His first album for the company included a cover version of Bob Marley‘s “Redemption Song”. He has recorded several albums for various labels since, including Rainmaker for Tuff Gong (1997) and Little Patience for Coral (2004).
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Majek was married to Rita Fashek who inspired the song “Without You”; the couple had four children together, but later divorced. In 2015, it was alleged that Majek was bankrupt and battling drug addiction. After admitting that he needed help, he was admitted into a drug rehabilitation centre in Abuja where he recovered and returned to music.
Besides his struggle with drug addiction, other health conditions required Majek’s hospitalisation on several occasions. He was rumored dead in September 2019 but his manager quelled the rumors, confirming that Majek had indeed been critically ill, hospitalized at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, London in the UK and in dire need of financial assistance. Billionaire businessman and philanthropist Femi Otedola pledged to cover all the singer’s medical expenses.
Majek songs are: Prisoner of Conscience 1987, I & I Experience 1989, Prisoner of Conscience (Re-release) 1989; So Long Too Long 1991, Spirit of Love 1991, Rainmaker 1997; Best of Majek Fashek 1997, Little Patience 2005
Honestly, ‘So Long, Too Long’ for burial in Nigeria, Majek is still ‘A Prisoner of Conscience in Death’
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