Such an affable fellow he was, easy and down to earth
Majek Fashek, the reggae star who ruled the Nigerian airwaves with his unique brand of the music genre has died in the United States according to his manager Omenka Uzoma. Majek exploded into music scene in 1988 with his Prisoner of Conscience album which featured “Send Down the Rain” that became a household anthem across Nigeria.
Later that year, a boyhood friend of mine who is related to the Majek family took me along to visit the musician’s mother in Benin City. Majek’s mother took us down memory lane, how he usually sneaked out of the house to the nearby primary school to play music with his playgroup.
In 1989, when Majek’s second album “Experience” was enjoying rave reviews, and appearing at topnotch events, my path crossed with that of the rain maker at the Tafawa Belewa Square, TBS, Lagos, during a nationwide mass mobilisation campaign by the former Nigeria’s military dictator Ibrahim Babangida. Professor Jerry Gana, who heads Babangida’s MAMSER, put the programme together on behalf of the junta. MaJek would headline the concert which also featured the South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka.
As a reporter on the Lagos Island in those days, you could tell those who were for and against the Babangida military regime. Majak certainly wasn’t to be classified as a supporter of Babangida. So, why would he play for a man majority of the population would want to forget in a hurry? That question was on my mind when I was given the assignment to cover the concert.
The organisers had granted me and a handful of reporters to meet with Majek back stage. Such an affable fellow he was, easy and down to earth. He was surrounded by his buddies I learnt were members of his former Jastix Band. When we settled down to the real “gist” Majek took the questions as they came, mainly on his career and entertainment generally in Nigeria at the time. I must confess that the company I was in were all familiar with the rain maker because they were all entertainment reporters. I was the odd man out and pointed this out to Majek as I fired my question. Why are you playing at Babangida’s concert, you’re suppose to be the conscience of the Nigerian people at this time?
The first thing I noticed was the broad smile on his face, sighed deeply and gave it to me straight. He said there was no better platform than the one created by Babangida to take on him. I wanted him to throw more light on this but he simply asked If I’d be staying for his performance to which I responded in the affirmative. That was the end of the story. He cracked more jokes and just then one of his people brought his legendary handcuffs and snapped them on his hands and added a bell to complete his props . That was the signal that he was ready to go on stage.
The whole of TBS was packed. Everyone had come to see the rain maker. The organisers did it so well they ensured Majek’s performance came on the heels of Prof Jerry Gana’s speech. The whole arena was electrified when Majek came on. He came in like a prophet on a mission to salvage Nigeria and he did it so well the crowd would wish he continued, delivering his salvo against the junta. When the handcuffs came off as sign of freedom the crowd roared. He picked his rhythm guitar and latched on to the song Free Africa, Free Mandela from his just released album “Experience.” Ironically, the song on the occasion was directed at Babangida. Time and time again he urged the dictator to free Nigeria! The intermittent roars which punctuated his rendition are better imagined. I’m sure Prof Gana never had Majek on his stage again. Majek would be missed.