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Majek Fashek

Written by on 10/03/2023


Fashek was born in Benin City to an Edo mother and an Ijesha father in 1963, but identified mainly with his Benin roots.

Various translations of his name Fasheke (Ifá à ṣe èké) include “powers of miracles” and “divination does not lie”, however, it refers to the orisha (deity) Ifa (deity of divination) of the Yoruba religion and means “Ifa does not lie/deceive.”

After his parents separated, Fashek remained in Benin City with his mother, and later joined the choir in his local Aladura church where he 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 Jah Stix with musicians Amos 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 (fronted by Victor Essiet). Jah Stix were also session musicians for up and coming reggae singer Edi Rasta, who would later be known as Evi-Edna Ogholi.

In 1987, shortly after Jah Stix disbanded, Fashek, who now used the name Majek Fashek, signed with Tabansi Records and began a solo career, releasing the album Prisoner of Conscience and quickly becoming Nigeria’s top reggae artist after the song “Send Down The Rain” became the most popular song of the year.

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, I&I Experience, 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).

Fashek’s musical influences include Bob Marley whom he resembled vocally Jimi Hendrix, and Fela Kuti. He was one of the original Nigerian artists drawn to Caribbean music, specifically reggae, rather than indigenous hybrids such as fuji, jùjú, but was known to mix these genres to create his own style he called kpangolo, and the song “My Guitar”, an ode to his favourite instrument, was heavily influenced by rock.

Fashek had a supporting role in the 1999 Nollywood movie Mark of the Beast, and starred in a commercial for non-alcoholic beverage Diamalt.

In 2016 he performed to audience of over 10,000 people in a comedy show hosted by Ayo Makun in Eko Hotel Hall, Lagos.

In November 2016 Fashek contributed the song “We Are Not Afraid” to a video directed by former 10CC member Kevin Godley featuring over 200 celebrities including 53 members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to raise funds for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Human Rights Watch.

Fashek was married to Rita Fashek who inspired the song “Without You”; the couple had four children together, but later divorced. In 2015, it was revealed that Fashek 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 Fashek’s hospitalisation on several occasions.

He was rumored dead in September 2019 but his manager quelled the rumors, confirming that Fashek 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.

Fashek died in his sleep on 1 June 2020 in New York City. He was 57, and was battling esophageal cancer.

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