Nigerian reggae musician Majek Fashek passed on today, at the age of 57. Nicknamed “Majek Fashek” , Majekodunmi Fasheke was a musical innovator whose work over three decades was pivotal to the international recognition that was too come for contemporary Nigerian music.
Majek Fashek was at the epicentre of Nigerian pop music that formed the foundation for modern African reggae music. His songs amplified hope, faith, African consciousness and optimism and formed the roots that present day reggae artists tapped from.
The singer, songwriter and producer was in the vanguard of his self styled “Kpangolo in the 80s and 90s” touring and appearing at music festivals all over the world.
Here we take a look at 5 highlights of his glistening career.
Fashek was born in Benin City to an Edo State mother and a Ijesha father,(Osun State, Western Nigeria) but identifies with his Benin roots. Majek joined the choir in his local Aladura church at an early age 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 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”. The Jastix were session musicians for upcoming reggae singer Edi Rasta, who would later be known as Evi-Edna Ogholi.
Majek Fashek’s Music Style Was Unique & He Called It ‘Kpangolo’
Majek Fashek’s music was a fusion of different sounds and he christened it “Kpangolo”. 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.
According to him: “Kpangolo is a mixture of jazz, rock, hip-hop, Afro-beat; it has all kinds of sounds mixed together in it. Kpangolo 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 the Igbo highlife, Rock n roll which is American; so it’s a sound of many cultures put into one sound.
“Send Down The Rain”
The iconic reggae crooner sang several hit bangers that made people tag him a musical prophet and some of those songs are still ever green. One of such songs is “Send Down the Rain”which is arguably his most famous track ever. ‘Send Down The Rain’ was a hit, and he won six US-based PMAN Music Awards which included Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Reggae Artist of the Year.
He was named “The Rainmaker” because ‘Send Down the Rain’ in his album ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ always caused concert goers to go into a frenzy when rendered at shows. His voice, live performances and dexterity on the guitar was a beauty to behold.
Majek Fashek On David Letterman Show in 1992
The legendary Majek Fashek was the first Nigerian singer to appear on a late-night TV show in America when he appeared on “The Late Night with David Letterman”. This was Majek’s debut on the US national network television. He performed his hit song ‘So Long Too Long’ from his album ‘Spirit of Love’ on the Show with some members of his band. He appeared on Late Night show in support of his new album.
He recalled his featuring on the show with nostalgia in an interview with Business Day in 2017. “Do you know what it means to be on a programme called ‘Good Morning America’? Till today, I’m still paid royalties in America, but some people keep stealing my fortunes here, putting people’s music on ITunes and making money”
International Deals and Collaborations
He was the first African Artist to be signed to Interscope Records in 1990. In 1990 when he was signed, he released the critically acclaimed album; Spirit Of Love. 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 also worked with various artists worldwide including Tracy Chapman, Jimmy Cliff, Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg.
The 57 year old reggae icon has in recent years had a long battle with ill-health and he died in a hospital in New York on Monday around 5:45pm. He is survived by wife and three children.
He never seemed to tire of churning out uplifting tunes in his hay days plus his hit songs which are still relevant in contemporary times, stand as a testament to his commitment to a better Africa and Nigeria. His music will continue to be played and it will inspire future generations. His influence is far from finished.
May his soul Rest in Peace and our thoughts are with his loved ones in these times.