(Photo by Bill Grech/WireImage)

Majek Fashek during Majek Fashek in Concert at Reminiscence - 1997 at Reminiscence in New York City, New York, United States.

Tributes Pour Out For Nigerian Reggae Legend, Majek Fashek, Upon His Passing

'Arise from your sleep Africa, Arise from your sleep America. There's work to be done,' sang Fashek on his hit 1992 song 'So Long.'

Renowned Nigerian reggae musician Majek Fashek passed away in New York on Tuesday, he was 57. According to the BBC, though he had been battling an unspecified illness for some years, the exact cause of his death is yet to be confirmed.

The artist was best known for his acclaimed albums, including as So Long Too Long and Spirit of Love. He often addressed themes of freedom, Pan-Africanism and apartheid in his music with songs like "Free Africa" and "Free Mandela."

Born in Benin City Nigeria in 1963, he began his career as part of the trio Jastix before releasing his debut solo album Prisoner Of Conscience in 1988, which garnered him international attention and led to him becoming the first African act signed to Interscope in 1990. He was drawn to reggae music, despite genres like highlife and juju being more popular in Nigeria at the time, and he was heavily influenced by the work of Bob Marley.

Fashek became one of the biggest names in African reggae. His 1991 track "So Long" was a Pan-African anthem, with lyrics of particular relevance in today's racial and political climate: "Arise from your sleep Africa, Arise from your sleep America. There's work to be done Africa," he sang in the opening lines of the internationally acclaimed song. The song made reference to Black leaders like Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King Jr.

He was one of the earliest Nigerian artists to appear on late night television, paving the way for artists like Burna Boy to make his memorable late night debut in 2019. A clip from Fashek's 1992 performance on the David Letterman Show has been circulating online.

Majek Fashek - So long - Live on the David Letterman Show ( 1992) youtu.be

He collaborated with several international stars throughout his career, including Tracy Champan, Jimmy Cliff and Snoop Dogg.

His death was confirmed by his manager Omenka Uzoma on Tuesday. "I want to say that we should all celebrate his achievements," said Uzoma in a video shared on Instagram. "He has done a lot for Nigeria, Africa." According to BBC Africa, reports that the artist was suffering from a serious illness began to spread in the mid 2000's. In 2015, the artist entered a drug rehabilitation centre in Abuja, and later recovered and returned to music.

Since the news of his passing, several Nigerian music fans have been sharing personal tributes in remembrance of Fashek, highlighting the importance of his message of Black unity and freedom.

Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou SangarĂ© proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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