Majek is still fighting for our freedom
As Majek Fashek leaves us, his over three-decade long call for black people around the world to unite for progress, rings true now more than ever before: “Arise from your sleep Africa / Arise from your sleep America / There's work to be done Africa / There's work to be done America / If we unite, we will be free so long, for too long / So long, for too long / We've been sitting down for so oooo long / We've been fooling round for too oooo long / We've been sitting down for so oooo long,”
Like his predecessors, Fela Kuti and Bob Marley, Majek Fashek is the ultimate freedom fighter, who used his music as a weapon in the fight for justice and equity for black people around the world. The popular reggae star throughout his career, made music to advocate for freedom, justice and equality. In 1988, shortly after he was kicked out of his debut band Jastix, where he went by the moniker Rajesh Kanal, Majek began a solo career releasing the album “Prisoner of Conscience” and quickly attained Nigeria’s top reggae artist status after his hit single, “Send Down The Rain” became the most popular song of that year.
At the height of apartheid in the late 1970s, Nigerian musicians played forceful roles, using their music to directly call out South Africa’s apartheid government for their injustices to indegnious South Africans. Artists like Majek Fashek, Onyeka Owenu, and Sunny Okosun, released songs that demanded the breakdown of segregation and kept the consciousness going even after late President Nelson Mandela, the South African leader of the fight to end apartheid, was released from prison.
Majek Fashek’s ‘Prisoner of Conscience’, ‘Free Mandela’ and his remix of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song ‘ added to the external fight against apartheid. Nearly every album released in the apartheid era by a Nigerian musician that did not feature a song calling for African liberation was almost incomplete. In as much as apartheid was concerned then, Nigerian singers were united in their struggle to end it and liberate indegenous South Africans, and Majek was the most visible leader in the music industry’s efforts for freedom. With features on the international scene, most notably an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman in New York City, Majek consistently advocated for global collaboration to deliver peace and justice to blacks all over the world.
Fashek was born in Benin City to an Edo Old Bendel State mother and a Ijesha (in present day Osun State, Western Nigeria) but he identified more with his Benin roots. Various translations of his name Fasheke (Ifa-kii-she-eke) include "high priest who does not lie", "power of miracles" and "(system or medium of) divination does not lie". After his parents separated, Fashek remained in Benin City with his mother, and soon joined the choir in his local Aladura church, where he learned to play the trumpet and guitar as he composed songs for the choir.
Majekodunmi Fasheke, popularly known as Majek Fashek was a Nigerian singer-songwriter and guitarist. Also known as The Rainmaker, he worked with various artists worldwide including Tracy Chapman, Jimmy Cliff, Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Beyoncé and Danny Erskine.
The beloved Nigerian reggae star died at age 57 in his sleep on June 1 2020 in New York City at the height of the global #BlackLiveMatter protests, where marginalised blacks particularly in the United States took to the streets to demand an end to systemic racism. Spurred by the brutal murder of George Floyd by a cop who knelt on the victim’s neck for almost 9 minutes in an attempt to detain him, while his cop colleague looked on indifferently, the protests began with public outrage over a published video of the fatal event.
Today Majek’s words remind us that we are uniquely positioned to work for black progress because of a rich heritage and the vision and sacrifice of leaders before, “Remember, remember, long long time ago / When we used to live like prince and princess / Remember, remember, the pyramids of Egypt / When we used to live like prince and princess / Remember, remember, Marcus Garvey / Who had a dream for you Africa / Remember, remember, Martin Luther King, Who had a dream for you America.” “We've been sitting down for so oooo long / We've been fooling round for too oooo long / Arise from your sleep Africa / Arise from your sleep America.”
So long Majek. So long.