Majek Fashek – a Musical Tragedy

After years of public speculation and personal denial, reggae legend Majek Fashek has finally entered rehab. Previously he had denied that he had a problem and even attempted to glamorize his addiction – on The Charly Boy Show in the late 90’s, the host continuously pointed at a “Say No to Drugs” poster in his backyard (Charly Boy once admitted in an interview with TopNews to briefly experimenting with drugs during his college days in America, so he was talking from experience), but Fashek merely joked that he only ‘used’ drugs as opposed to indulgence. I knew that he wasn’t telling the whole truth. His Jastix bandmates Black Rice and Ras Kimono have hardly aged as much as their former colleague. Gossip columnists had a field day reporting his weird antics which included flashing his privates at an impromptu concert in Lagos. Despite a performance on The David Letterman Show in 1992, subsequent releases since 1991’s So Long Too Long had failed to set the Nigerian charts alight despite touring with Tracy Chapman. Add to this his now gaunt appearance, complete with rotting teeth which now replaced the ravishing smile of the once handsome young man, and it was obvious what the problem was, which begs the question – why?

It is no longer uncommon to associate fame with drugs. Celebrities who survived addiction include Richard Pryor, Natalie Cole, Lady Gaga, Ozzy Osbourne, Britney Spears, and Courtney Love. While these stars eventually survived, others were not so lucky; after Amy Winehouse passed away in 2011, a large amount of interest was taken in the infamous 27 Club – rock stars who had died of drug-related causes at the age of twenty-seven. Ironically, Fashek was nearly the same age when he released “Send Down the Rain” and had a bright feature ahead of him. Nearly thirty years later he is a parody of his former self. This is a man who was a pioneer of Nigerian reggae. Like the Afrobeat king Fela Kuti and His Royal Punkness, Fashek used his talent to speak for all Nigerians, notably when he yelled “Now now now, Babaingida…Babaingida…hey hey hey…free Nigeria…” (Yes, he stole it from Bananarama’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”, but who cares?). This is the same man who toured with Tracy Chapman and Jimmy Cliff, legends in their own right, but still remembered where he came from. He was a well-respected musician, but he would later become Nigeria’s most famous walking anti-drugs campaign.

Was he struggling to cope with fame in Nigeria? Was he fighting to avoid failure in America? Was he looking for ‘inspiration’ on both sides? (Paul McCartney and George Michael have both spoken of using drugs to enhance their creativity, although the latter would later admit that his habit nearly ruined his career.) It is clear that drugs are dangerous – recreational or habitual – and when one becomes an addict, they do more than sniff cocaine up their nose. They ‘sniff away’ their lives and respect. Indeed, Fashek has stated in interviews that his past glory has been overshadowed by his current drug shame. However, research has shown that contrary to popular belief, addiction is not caused by a lack of willpower or moral principles, but is actually a complex disease. Comedian Russell Brand has been clean for a number of years, but has confirmed that he’ll always be an addict because it’s in his personality. This is why we all have to campaign hard to rid our society of this poison – as Charly Boy said on his show, no to drugs and yes to education. I am glad that Fashek has finally admitted to a problem, which is often the first stage of recovery, and in a turn of events he now urges Nigerians to say no to drugs…the same message his old friend had given him many years ago. Let us not turn our back on Majek Fashek; where there’s life, there’s hope.

Say no to drugs – they’re not worth it

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