A book, any one at all, about the late Nigerian musician Majekodunmi Fasheke, better known as Majek Fashek, must concern the rain. O yes, for while he lived and performed, most of his shows almost always coped with an encore of rainfall. Any wonder he had to cope with the moniker Rainmaker. Like transpired, he was to be the icing atop the cake of Nigeria’s late 80s/early 90s reggae renaissance.
It saw the emergence of such stars as Tera Kota, The Mandators, Ras Kimono, Oritz Wiliki, etc. They were the first to re-localise our musical potentials after its colonial propensities had put highlife on a back foot. Just like Fela Kuti with Afrobeat before the modern train conquered the world with Afrobeats. Yet, back then while those cascades of water from the sky often went no sooner as they came, Majek’s life can only translate to an interminable fall of rain.
After all, though he died on the 1st of June, 2020, no day passes without one of his tunes enjoying airplay on local radios. For, as brief as his discography was engendered on account of his afflictions, he still managed to leave enough musical footprints on the sands of time to last a lifetime. In fact, the paradox is best captured by the statement in the book by Rita, the love of his life. According to her, theirs was ‘pure and innocent love’ between two ‘Benin natives’ dating back to when they were teenagers. Avowedly, she had assumed they would live together forever. But this was not to be. In her words, ‘as we grew into different rhythms of life’s challenges, I discovered that forever was not enough time to spend with him.’It’s that poignant.
After initial scrapes on a shoestring, Majek had turned into a roaring superstar. With his songs on everyone’s lips, the sky appeared as a starting point. Unequivocally, he had all the promises of ruling the world with his vibes. Talk was even rife of him stepping into the shoes left by Bob Marley in 1981. However, the expected bang only ended up in a whimper fast-forwarded by a steady recourse to alcohol and drugs. This account by Azuka Jebose Molokwu (AJM) could not have come any handier. Since Majek’s sudden death, virtually nothing has been written about his phenomenal passage. Save, of course, the much said in the terse obituaries, tributes and articles that announced it.
So, this effort should get all the commendation possible; if, for nothing else, for the sheer bounce of its effrontery.But, all said and done, it holds to bear that none else could have done so but AJM. What with a shared relationship with the subject. It dates back to when Majek was just another caper on the nation’s tin-pan alley. And all the more so because it got a deserved second wind as both “japaed” to the USA in search of greener pastures.
Thus, as is, none else could have told the enchanting story. At least not without the unlimited third-party interferences that have often been the bane of many such an earlier effort. Therefore, whether you call this unauthorised or unsolicited, it makes it serve up a memoir like no other. Much unlike the permitted works, it doesn’t end up a mere parody of what the author set out to present. Like Hunter Davies’ effort on The Beatles, for instance, ruined by authorisations and retractions even after the book had been done, dusted, released and reissued on end.
This makes …Before And After The Rain a journalistic memoir of note. Comparable in proportion to those by the likes of Garcia Marquez and Robert Louis Stevenson. And such other journalist and subject relationships like the one between Hotchner, A. E. and Ernest Hemingway that birthed the irrepressible Papa Hemingway: The Ecstasy and Sorrow.
Or how else could the world have read about some of Majek and the author’s escapades together without a pinch of salt and doubt. Like what transpired between author and subject the night circumstances forced them to share a hotel room after an abortive flight. Or, indeed, the reason for their disembarkation from a flight they had successfully boarded.
The book is replete with such recollections. Like the many times they quarrelled about the artiste’s nonchalance about signing agreements. A preponderance that made the latter ruin the author’s effort to proffer him a kind of management team that would have taken him places. Let alone making him, then, and his family, now, have access to royalties that are now abandoned to bootleggers.
All in all, AJM has only set the ball rolling. Even outsiders can now step in to help unravel the mystery of Majek Fashek. Most so as it concerns our music scene before his aptly described ‘reign and ruin’.
[Review by : Isidore Emeka Uzoatu, a retired journalist, lives in and works from Onitsha, Anambra State.]