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MY ENCOUNTER WITH MAJEK FASHEK

How time flies and how people forget the dead so easily too. Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the death of this great reggae icon and it is amazing to note how people appear to have forgotten him so soon. I combed social media and not a single remembrance in the memory of “The Rain Maker” as he was fondly called. The reason for this may not be farfetched, and understandably not unconnected with the state of our troubled nation, even though many still pretend that all is fine. The ‘‘peace’’ in our land is a fragile one— like the eerie calm before the storm. To fill this void, I decided to pen down these indelible thoughts of mine in memory of the maverick gentleman entitled: My personal encounter with Majek Fashek.

Elopee Entertainment Company, the organisation I worked for then, had a strong hold on the idols and stars of those days, and in the field of entertainment throughout the country, our only rivals were Cowrie Bond and Silverbird. We had a music label. We promoted fashion, entertainers, artistes, games and sportsmen. We organised dance championships in Nigeria and West Africa—and even produced Bimbo Gomero, the first and only Nigerian to win a world dance championship, in Ibiza, Spain. We were on the cusp of delving into Beauty pageant too with—Miss Wonderland—before the endeavours fell.

My office therefore was a beehive of stars, and we were so used to them that Majek, in spite of his fame, never made any much impression to me the first night he breezed into our No 8, Folawiyo Bankole, Surulere office. All I realised then was that he was never the boisterous and vainglorious type like many in his class. Some of those so called ‘‘stars’’ are nothing but animals, I must say. But Majek was strangely modest and very soft spoken. He was very patient with us—unlike others. He understood our challenges easily. Most of our recordings were done late night as the office wasn’t soundproofed. We sometimes had to reshoot or restart a whole episode over again because of honking vehicles and other unusual noise— even at nights. It was usually nightmarish for our editor, Mr. Fanu of Cinecraft. We had no issue at all with that gentleman called Majek. Calm like still water, he played along with us, unperturbed.

The first real issues that drew my attention however was at Sony Music, Ikeja under the aegis of Chief Mrs. Keji Okunowo. We met Majek there seated at the lounge. Pleasantries were exchanged and our crew sat down too. And as fate had it, an ex-Miss Nigeria (name under wrap) that I secretly admired was with us and had the privilege of sitting beside Majek. Need I emphasise again that my affection was a covert one, like that of a student admiring his teacher and daring not to express it. Directly opposite them I sat with my gist and gossip partner, big friend and confidant, the pony haired Funky Mallam, Mustapha Amego —who later became the PMAN President (now of blessed memory).

As we seated and all legs stretched out for convenience, something immediately caught my attention. Majek’s legs stood out from his typical shorts and lumberjack boots worn. His skin was like that of a baby—succulent and glazing. For the first time, relativity revealed its practical meaning to me and my understanding of the proverb ‘‘comparisons are odious’’ was crystallised as I saw the practical danger of comparisons. It was clear as daylight, the supposed “hot legs” of our ex-Miss became an instant eyesore. Even Majek’s face was like a baby’s compared to the ex-queen’s ‘‘cosmetic’’ face obviously japaned with several layers of body fillers called “beauty” creams! While I secretly slipped my hand from behind to draw my friend’s attention to the bewildering spectacle, he held it, fixing his gaze on the legs too. He had seen it too—and probably everyone in that lounge did. In no time, I guess the Queen noticed it too and slowly, her legs began to convulse until she had them buried permanently under the chair. Majek innocently killed my secret admiration as it became an object of fun for us afterwards— ‘‘Even Rasta fine pass our Queen!’’, Funky Mallam would say.

Majek Fashek wasn’t just charming on the outside, he was beautiful on the inside too. This other encounter was also at Ikeja, some few months apart, and Nightshift Coliseum was the venue. Majek had a play that night and was on stage. A blind man had an appointment with him but was not allowed in. All his entreaties fell on the deaf ears of the security and management who turned him down. At last, one humane fellow spotted and called my attention to the plight of the man. He must have noticed that I had access to the stage so he begged that I should help talk to Majek else he would never be allowed in and would be stranded as he had no money to get him off there. He was a frail and pitiable figure, poorly dressed for such a place. He didn’t smell nice either— effects of prolonged perspiration perhaps, or bad breath— or both. It was that bad that I could still perceive it even though I was heavily on booze. His conversation with me, when I took over from the good Samaritan showed he was extremely intelligent. He regaled me on how heaven made him a lifetime beneficiary of Majek’s grace— free to attend his shows and would part with good sums of money. He said all I needed to do was just to say his blind friend was around.

I wasn’t too convinced but gave him that benefit of the doubt. As I was about leaving, he called me back and asked for my name and told me his too but I doubt if it ever stuck considering the state I was in. He said he had to do that because his friend would be all over him immediately he set eyes on him. Lastly, he asked if he could feel my palm—whatever that was for— I presented it to him without hesitation. He ran his fingers gently on my palm for maybe 30 seconds or more, as if he was trying to take sample of my fingerprint or DNA maybe. When he was done, he told me with absolute certainty that with that he could never forget me again. I went through the back stage to tell the Rainmaker that a blind man wanted to see him. Where he dey? He asked enthusiastically. “Outside!” “They wouldn’t allow him in”, I replied. He jumped off the stage and followed me. “Where him dey?”, he kept asking as I kept pointing to the direction of his ostracised friend. He overtook me immediately he sighted him and almost ran up to meet and hugged him. I stood still and watched him drag the frail man to the back stage where he gave him a VIP reception.

Majek was beautiful both inside and outside. Life is short, but art is long; long as his songs cannot be forgotten, so will his name too. Life can be very cruel sometimes; he was a peaceful being overtaken by vicissity and asperity. It was a pity how he ended it all, and even more so when I remember Niyi Fasheke too, his cousin and classmate of mine, who later lived with me in ‘Cambodia’ during his final days on earth. May the earth be soft for the two Fashekes—and Mustapha Amego too!