Sometime last year, there was a rumour that Majek Fashek had died but I didn’t believe it for one second and unsurprisingly, it was confirmed that he was still alive. This morning however, when I saw the announcement of his death on a friend’s WhatsApp status, I screamed. The sky was a sickly shade of grey and the rain sounded as if the sky was crying. I knew it was true, Majek the rainmaker had gone home.
It was only fitting that his death was announced by rain, the Benin-city born maestro is perhaps best known for his hit song Send Down The Rain. According to legend, he released the song during a drought and the rains that year were unprecedented. Recently, a Facebook friend made a post about playing the song on his workstation and his boss who’d been passing by immediately told him to stop the song so it wouldn’t start raining. It’s hard to know where myth ends and Legend begins with Majek, very hard.
I’ve written about Majek several times in the past, written about the spirituality and haunting beauty of his lyrics, his instinctive feel for the perfect sound and of course, the wreckage that his life and music became due to the evil white powder. Now it’s time to write a tribute and it’s breaking my heart.
Majek was one of the first artists I could recognize as a little child and it was mainly because of the song Mother which I thought had my name mentioned in it, the version of Adaeze which my nursery school classmates certainly called me – Atete. So when he sang ‘Mama Tete Oyoyo’, I preened because my name was on the song and he was singing for my mum and my paternal grandmum who were Mama Adaeze and Adaeze’s Mama respectively.
I’m going to digress a little and mention that I was nearly five when I realised that my younger by eighteen months brother, also had the same grandmother as me. I understood that we shared the same parents and maternal grandparents and paternal grandfather but I thought my paternal grandma belonged to me alone.
As an adult, I can see why I thought that. My grandma was a very lovey, dovey, huggy person and my brother was and still is the exact opposite of that. So while grandma and I cuddled and snuggled and I hung around her and got maltina and big chunks of liver in her famous peppersoup which she made for the customers in her drinks and peppersoup shop, Obi was usually upstairs bouncing on her bed or disturbing my grandfather.
Back to Majek, I’ve spent most of today listening to him as I went about my daily activities, I’m listening to I Come From The Ghetto as I write this. That song always reminds me of who I am and what I am capable of, the baby born on Ogunlana Drive and raised at Aborishade Road in Lawanson will shake this world whether I like it or not.
This afternoon, I was bouncing as my bus rode through the link road to Mushin road which are both more pothole than road and the song LA was playing. As Majek sang about the beauties of Los Angeles, I struggled hard to contain my laughter as I couldn’t have found a place as completely oppositely from LA as my location, if I was looking for it. However, as he sang about police brutality and the disparity between the rich and the poor, I thought Mushin = Los Angeles.
I didn’t think I would still cry for the man, for the shell of the man who was left after substance abuse had left its devastation in full measure. I found myself crying as I walked home from the bus stop, I had the option of stopping in front of my house but I chose to go to the next bus stop and walk home, my favourite Majek Fashek song was coming through my earphones.
When I tell people that my favourite song by him is Let It Shine, there’s always a look of surprise – mostly because they don’t know the song themselves, and they expect it to be either So Long or Holy Spirit. ‘Let It Shine’ however is an extremely beautiful song that makes me smile and it hits my soul on a frequency that few songs ever do.
Listening to the song this afternoon made this grown woman cry, I didn’t realise when I took off my glasses and began to wipe my eyes to stop the tears which were veiling my vision. I also had a good laugh at myself as I remembered I wasn’t supposed to touch my face.
Even though So Long has lost its exalted position as my favourite song by Majek Fashek, it is still on my absolute favourite top ten songs list while Let It Shine doesn’t appear there. It’s one song I can sing with all my heart without flubbing the lyrics even if I just awoke from a coma.
I’m listening to it as I wonder how to end this post about this man whose music has been a lifelong companion, a man whose name and face I can not remember not knowing. I think of the tiny version of me hugging my grandma when ‘Mama Tete’ came up on the radio or on her TV. I think of all the times I’ve sat in various rooms across Nigeria listening to his music, or walked a little slowly on random streets as I listen to a song by Majek.
A gift like him comes to us very rarely, his place in the pantheon of African stars can never be wiped off. As he goes on to join the troubadours and prophets sighing over us from beyond the skies, as he finds those who have gone before him and learns how to cope without this mortal coil. May his soul find the rest and may his spirit find freedom.
So Long, Rainmaker.