'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.
Raggae music is very spiritfilled but I've always thought Majek Fashek was tapped to something even deeper.
The way he mixed deep understanding with extremely rich blends of Carribean, African and sometimes European and middle eastern sounds was second to none.#RIPMajekFashek pic.twitter.com/rZiYRL9KjH
— The Rayo Kasali (@RayoKasali) June 2, 2020
Memories of the legendary Majek Fashek. Go well RAINMAKER 🙏❤️.
•#majekfashek #legend #icon #RIP 🙏 pic.twitter.com/AbKGUdS5AN
— Dr. Kelechi Anyikude (@KelechiAFC) June 3, 2020
This is the best thing I've seen today. Rip Legend Majek Fashek ❤️pic.twitter.com/YqewLSOppI
— Laolao (@itz_laolao) June 2, 2020
RIP, music legend Majek Fashek. I met him backstage in New York during USA '94 World Cup when the Nigerian Community engaged him to celebrate Nigeria's World Cup debut. His “Holy Spirit" track is one of my best ever by any artist. He was a special talent. RIP, the Rainmaker. pic.twitter.com/J3xPsUUBov
— Mumini Alao (@Mumini_Alao) June 3, 2020