So long, Rainmaker; no more pain Majek Fashek
There is never a good time to die, but a loss amid a global pandemic and protests deprives of the heftiness of the grief…
It’s all happening in the world right now. Chaos reigns on the evening news. Even though the ominous cloud continues to lurk over us, the worst seems to have been seen of COVID 19 with declining numbers only a reminder of its trail. The killing of George Floyd in the U.S has sparked global protests, with banners screaming boldly; ‘we can’t breathe.’
Back home, there is an outrage, women are angry and this time, the chants of war at rape and rapists are loud and impossible to ignore.
But in the late hours of Monday, June 1, 2020, there was a distinct type of grief as news emerged that the legendary Reggae singer Majek Fashek had passed away. Majek was 57 years old.
His first name, Majekodunmi translates to ‘‘Do not let this hurt me,’’ but to everyone who knew the man either personally or through his music, this news hurt, and the sense of inevitability that many had harbored — as Majek has been unstable and looked a shadow of himself for years — didn’t dampen its sting as witnessed from the public reaction as fans and fellow musicians poured out condolences and expressed sadness online.
For some of us, Majek Fashek’s songs were the soundtrack of our childhood years. Weaved in political commentary, spirituality, and consciousness, he was every bit a superstar as he was one of us. ‘Send Down The Rain’ is a timeless classic. As much as it was that popular nursery rhyme for kids who loved and wished to play under the open heavens, it was also the divine cry for farmers who needed it for their crops or the masses lacking electricity, subject to the harshness of the heat and seeking nature’s intervention.
The biggest appeal of his songs, which might serve as a reminder to artists, particularly now, was that his art matched his identity, with messages reflecting the reality that surrounds him.
On ‘Majek Fashek In A New York,’ he was the lens through which many who dreamt of the gold littered on U.S streets had an early reality check, ‘‘I used to think New York was like heaven on earth, I was surprised to see beggars on the street of New York,’’ he sang, and in an environment where gossiping is sports, ‘Leave Us Alone’ plays as the perfect response, but my favorite remains ‘Holy Spirit.’
Fully using the power in his vocals, Majek calls out for help from a higher deity to wash away the pains he witnessed in the world. The raw emotions captured in his message of woes and sorrows mixed with the assurance of hope and some D-day reward transcends any other cut.
Music was the muse for his genius and in the late 80s and early part of the 90s, Majek was music royalty, in a league of his own, a crusader and a rockstar in how he dressed, lived, and performed.
But then he disappeared, got ‘lost’ in the U.S, became a myth with tales of his success leading to constant speculation and by the time he re-emerged, his greatest years were far behind him.
Despite making several public appearances and even having a record deal to push a final album, his present was in complete odds with the handsome fair-skinned man many knew and loved. His sparkle was gone and that enthusiasm that drew fascination was missing.
His fall called for scrutiny, gossips, and hearsay. Many blamed it on drugs, some said he should never have left, while the official rhetoric hinted something more personal; something spiritual.
The curtains may have closed on him in not too glorious terms, but his legacy resonates and I prefer to remember the singer who at a time seemed to have the world for his taking. His elevation was solitary; he had no equal, being the voice that captured the reality of his people; as he conveyed the weariness in their voices and echoed hope through its uncertainty.
His biggest addiction was not the rumored drugs, bad company, or ghosts that ran free in his head, it was in the stage, the audience, and the love for the moment as witnessed by his performances like when he appeared on the Letterman Show in 1992.
It’s been a week since his death and there have been tributes befitting of this exceptional artist, but perhaps Majek’s own words in an ode to his favorite instrument provide the most fitting epitaph; “Heaven and earth may pass away, night and death may pass away, but my guitar will never go away.’’ Rest on Majek, your music, legacy, and inspiration will never go away.