When Majek Fashek strolled casually into the premises of Vanguard newspapers, Wednesday, in the company of his manager, Omenka Uzoma Day, not many members of staff recognized him. Reason, he looked robust, fresh and well-fed, compared to when he was a mere shadow of his old self few years back. Yes, he’s hale an hearty again, and he’s ready to take the Nigerian music scene by storm. He said, his mission was to reclaim his lost glory and perhaps, prove his critics who thought he would never rise again wrong. In this engaging interview with Vanguard Entertainment team, the rain maker recounts the touching story of his dark days, insisting that he was never on drugs then as widely speculated, rather he was serving a spiritual punishment which has now come to an end. He also talks about his new album that is due to drop soon, as well as why he accused Timi Dakolo of stealing his song.
You were out of the country for some time, why are you back again?
I’m back home to help the Nigerian recession, and also to openly appreciate someone, Captain Hosa Okunbo who has been so nice to me. Everything he did for me was in secret, and he has done so much. So, I decided to come back home and appreciate him and also ask Nigerians to join us in thanking him for standing by me throughout my difficult moments. Secondly, I have a new album I want to use to help reduce the current economic recession in the country.
Nigeria is the richest country in Africa judging by the resources we have, so why should we be in recession? It’s not a good business, the Nigerian government has to wake up from their programme of stealing and provide for the poor masses, else in the future, we’ll be breeding armed robbers, kidnappers and all sorts of social miscreants in the country. Also, I’m in the country to promote my campaign tagged “Operation Feed The Poor People”, which is going to be sponsored by American Amnesty International in partnership with the Nigerian government. But we are still discussing with the Nigerian government. It is a program that would really help the Nigerian people. I intend to bring big artistes from the United Kingdom to embark on a tour of the country.
What’s the difference between the old Majek Fashek and the new one?
I believe in God and if you believe in God, you can never die. You can never fade away, if you don’t believe in God then you will fade away . The power of Majek Fashek is that I never give up on God and God never gives up on me. That’s the new Majek. The Holy Bible says in Book of Psalms 125 “Those that trust in God shall be like Mount Zion that abide forever.” Trusting in the Lord is to believe in God, it is God that makes all things, he is the giver and the taker of life, so you are seeing a new me because I believe in God. I have seen the other side of life, so my mission is to help mankind. Why Nigeria is great today and number one in Africa, followed by South Africa is because Nigerians believe in God. So, I still talk about God because if you believe in God, you will never suffer, although you will go through tribulations but after a while God will rescue you, that’s what happened to me.
You have been talking so much about God, how did you have your encounter with Him?
I grew up in a land of God. Bob Marley, my master and hero said “I will tell you who we are under the sun, we are the children of the most high God.” He believed in God too and we Nigerians also believe in God, both the Christians and the Muslims.
There were rumours that you were a drug addict and you had to go to rehab, what actually happened to you?
Let me put the record straight. I never used drugs. I was actually experiencing some spiritual s—t (attack) as at that time. My problem was spiritual and not drugs. I went through some spiritual problems and I paid the price for them, that was what happened to me, it wasn’t about drugs. It wasn’t every story that was published about me that was true. Some people are full of scandals, most people don’t want me to bounce back. Now, let me tell you this, I started the kind of music young artistes are doing now, it’s called “Pangolo”which I was doing when Fela was alive, he was my hero. Now, they are calling it Afrobeat but they are stealing my ideas, “Pangolo” is the sound they are playing not Afrobeat, it is all my idea, but they are all my children. I’m just like King David in the Bible. After fighting so many wars , he came back to claim his throne. I’ve come to claim my throne after getting the anointing of Queen Elizabeth because I went to Buckingham palace.
In your own estimation are the young artistes doing this Pangolo sound of yours well?
Yes, they are trying, but it’s only Femi Kuti that is doing live music. I have toured with Jimmy Cliff, if you read your history book very well, you would know that he started reggae music before Bob Marley. He was a superstar before Bob Marley, am I right? So I just want these young boys to know that I created what they are doing right now. I’m one Nigerian musician whose music is being played on radio in the United States. You must play live but all these boys are miming their music, they are not playing live. Do you know what it means to be on a program called ‘Good Morning America’? Till today, I’m still paid royalty in America, but some people keep stealing my fortunes here, putting people’s music on ITunes and making money. There was a time I had a problem with the media because I thought the media was scandalizing me, but it was my enemies. They were after my progress, because witchcraft is practiced in Nigeria, that’s why we have pastors who conduct vigil (Laughs). They almost made me an enemy of the press and without the press the musician cannot fly, it was the Nigerian press that even named me ‘the rainmaker’, I didn’t name myself ‘the rainmaker’, how can I make rain? I’m a mortal; it is only the immortals that can make rain.
After your song ‘send down the rain’ what is next?
I have an album now; it’s a 10-track album. What do you think brought me home? I just finished a 10-track album which I recorded in London. By God’s grace I want to mix it here in Nigeria because Nigerian artistes are becoming very good now. We also have very good studios, I’m very impressed with Nigerian artistes. In my time, girls didn’t go on screen to do music. Many parents refused to allow their female children to do music because they didn’t want anybody to sleep with them. But our music industry has improved now,that’s the reason I decided to come back home to produce my album after recording in London. London has its own market and culture while we have ours here in Nigeria. So I’m home to capture that sound because I can’t get it abroad; I need to capture that “Pangolo” sound that the young artistes are doing now. I came back to be in charge because these young boys are making money, they have more money than the older musicians. The likes of Olamide, Wizkid among others are all doing well.
How do you define the Pangolo sound you have been talking about?
Pangolo is a mixture of jazz, rock, hip-hop, Afro-beat; it has all kinds of sounds mixed together in it. “Pangolo” is the sound of many cultures, if you hear my sound you will hear the talking drum and that’s from the Yoruba culture, Shekere which is from the Igbo highlife, rock n roll which is American; so it’s a sound of many cultures put into one sound. That’s what all these boys are doing now, not their own style. If I decide to produce in London, I won’t capture the sound I want because they only listen to rock sound, but in Nigeria we are more open to other sounds.
While your spiritual tribulation lasted, what did you miss most?
I’m still going through tribulations my brother, tribulations never end. Even a millionaire is going through tribulations. If you give your life to Christ then the tribulations can be less, as long as you are on earth there will be tribulations. For example, we have a house in Lekki and another in Magodo, in Magodo whenever power supply is interrupted we switch on the generating set. Imagine an apartment that we paid millions to rent and we cannot enjoy the benefits, is that not tribulation?
In your new album, are you featuring any Nigerian artiste?
That seems to be the trend but the 10-track album I am presenting it as a gift to Nigerians because for 5 years I have not dropped an album. Later, I will do the one that will feature many Nigerian artistes. The only person that was featured in my forthcoming album is Tuface. He is going to be on the album. The album is a revelation album and it is titled, “Weep not children.” The children are weeping because our leaders are not doing what they are supposed to do. They have forgotten that they were once children; all of us were once children. We are going to give 10% of the proceeds from the album to mobilize the motherless children. Africans should be wise enough to respect the children. I have lived in the United States for 25 years; if you go to UK they have special bus that comes to pick the children all the time. The British and America governments take good care of their children. Until our government learn how to take care of the children and recognize the value of children there will always be recession. All of us including the president were once children. The mentality of the white men is that they always take care of their children. So, we should try as a nation to take the welfare of the children very seriously.
You once had an issue with Timi Dakolo. What happened?
I don’t want to talk about young artistes, he is a kid. Let my manager speak on that.
Manager: Timi remixed the song without the knowledge of Majek Fashek; It was the period I was in the US. So, when I came back I heard the song on ITunes where people were downloading it and they were making money, I was surprised. As a sign of respect, Timi would have come to meet the legend because the song is not an ordinary song. Tuface came and even paid for our flight to Abuja, he followed us back to back but he never did this to us. When we confronted Timi, he said he spoke with Majek’s manager. Who is the manager? I am the manager and he didn’t speak with me? People
started saying all kinds of things, thinking I knew something about it. I told Timi to present evidence of his transaction with the manager in question to the media. Later, Charles Novia and Azuka wrote that they were managing Majek before so they had the right to such things. Even if you were managing him before , were you his manager when he did that song and would you give consent without the main artiste? My own part is that you remixed the song, you didn’t not even give him a call, nothing like that. That’s what generated all these scandals but God is so kind that Majek is coming back. Some people did not want him to bounce back.
You were once called a prophet, are you still one?
If I were not a prophet, I probably would not still be around. As a child I used to fast for 7 days. For you to see me come out with a 10-track album after a long time is a confirmation of the fact that I am still a prophet and a trained prophet.
While in America, what actually happened that you were not able to break into the American music scene?
I wasn’t in Nigeria for about 10 years, Charles Novia told me he wanted to start a record label and he needed musical contents to boost it. He spoke to my manager then, I begged the manager to help him. So, while I was in America they were saying all kinds of bad things, that I was into drugs. So, I decided to come back to Nigeria to reunite with my fans. Charles Novia took that song and made a lot of money for himself and family. After 10 years, I came back to Nigeria, that was when I came back with Jay-Z, Buster Rhymes, Snoop Dogg among others for a show that was done in Polo club, Lagos. The show was organized by the publisher of “Thisday Newspaper.” That was the time I came back to Nigeria but I had to go back to America. I stayed back in America because I was training my kids, giving them direction and all that. Right now, I am happy because my children have my blood in them, they can find their way.
The story about your rehabilitation in Abuja seriously went viral on the internet, what’s the true story?
In that rehab I didn’t take their drugs and medications which they always administered. I used spiritualism to heal myself. Ayiri Emami was broadcasting his name that he was helping me. But the person doing the whole work, Captain Hosa Okunbo, was not broadcasting his name at all. He has spent millions of naira on me, while I was sojourning in London and he has not announced it to the world. That rehab you are talking about, if Ayiri didn’t broadcast it, nobody would have known about it. Ayiri sponsored the rehab but he didn’t keep his mouth shut.