By Uzo Maxim Uzoatu
Majek Fashek was a magician, and he could always come up with all makes of mischief.
Majek was once rehearing at daytime in Silver Shadow Night Club, Ola Ayinde Street, Ikeja, Lagos where my legendary DJ friend Stagger Lee reigned at night.
I was in the neighbourhood with my love interest at the time, a brilliant undergraduate whose name must not be revealed here because there is no need to start a Third World War just yet!
Majek was the rave for all the young ones, and my young darling was in shock when I took her into the lair of the rehearsing superstar.
I exchanged pleasantries with Majek, and my lover-girl was in wonder how familiar I was with most of the celebrated stars of the age that she could only see on television.
The babe and I settled down on a table to watch Majek rehearse with his band in their throbbing groove.
A boon companion of Majek and me walked in to tell me that some of my friends who had seen me walk into Silver Shadow were asking for me to come be with them in a nearby watering hole outside.
I excused myself from my girl who was enjoying the Majek show and wouldn’t really want to be distracted with my boozing asides.
I walked off to share beer with my friends, immediately forgetting Majek and his music because of the appeal of a quick tipple.
I later learnt that once I was out of sight the master music man Majek left the stage to chat up my babe!
“I came with your friend and I am leaving with your friend.” Those were the words my girl told me she had said to Majek.
Well, when I got back into Silver Shadow, Majek was still struggling hard to get fine with a hard-to-crack sweet one.
I calmly walked up to them, and Majek who had told the babe he did not know me – forgetting that he had greeted me warmly when we entered – appeared funny indeed.
I called Majek “Gangsta”, a nickname we jabbed each other with alongside another musician friend of ours – Ras Kimono.
Majek then tried to make amends by pretending to only be recognizing me at last, and then saluted me thusly: “Aaah Uzor…”
I just told him “Bye-bye, Rain-beaten Baby Thief”, and walked away with my babe who could not stop laughing at the brief encounter.
Knowing Majek, he was only trying to be hip in making a kill like all superstars are wont to in the nick of time.
Now, let’s get serious: Majek did not find it funny when my brother, Isidore Emeka Uzoatu, published a review of Majek Fashek’s debut album “Prisoner of Conscience” which he entitled “Prisoner of Influences.”
My brother’s contention was that Majek borrowed heavily from other musicians such as Steel Pulse and so on.
Majek who was on a roller-coaster of praises, especially for the hit song “Send Down the Rain”, somewhat felt betrayed.
I had to make him understand that in the business one had to take every criticism in one’s stride or go bust.
That’s how superstars are made, for as Oscar Wilde quipped: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”
There is no denying that Majek was a genius who came ahead of his time, and paid the price of every wunderkind.
He was seen in many informed quarters as the natural successor of Bob Marley in the reggae realm.
Being gifted is a tough act to sustain as there are many menacing demons haunting the gifted ones.
I could even feel it from the first moment I went with Azuka Jebose Molokwu to Jerry Anazia’s Ace Night Club in Ikeja for the press launch of Majek Fashek’s debut album “Prisoner of Conscience”.
In the beautiful innocence of Majek that evening I could see tragedy lurking in the shadows of the likes of earlier tragic young musicians such as Otis Redding, Richie Valens, Sid Vicious, John Lennon and so on.
When images of Majek wasting away started appearing in the media, I felt that my worst fears had come back to haunt me.
The later years of travails cannot take away the trailblazing triumphs of Majek because he was a natural leader who dared to sing where angels feared to lift a voice.
His camaraderie could be infectious, especially as per jamming up with his fellow reggae artist Ras Kimono and screaming: “Gangsta! Guns shooting kpa-kpa-kpa!”
Majek was a philosopher who had deep thoughts and redoubtable application well beyond his age and time.
I believe it was his insatiable quest for knowledge that led him to spiritualism and suchlike that eventually unhinged him.
It’s obvious that many people took advantage of him, but there is no point making recriminations here.
Majek Fashek did enough work in his lifetime to ensure that he will never really die.
Maxim Uzoatu, a poet and veteran journalist lives in Lagos.