South African Jazz singer and trumpeter, Hugh Masekela is dead.
According to the family, the singer died of prostate cancer on Tuesday, August 23, 2018 at age 78 years old. Masekela who’s regarded as the ‘father of South African jazz’ used his music in the fight against apartheid.
The singer who got three nominations at last November, All Africa Music Awards AFRIMA 2017, has a career spanning more than five decades. Masekela gained international recognition with his Afro-Jazz sound and hits such as “Soweto Blues”, which served as one of the soundtracks to the anti-apartheid movement.
“Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theater, and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memory of millions. Rest in power beloved, you are forever in our hearts, ” a statement on behalf of the Masekela family said. His son, Sal, recalled memories of being dragged around the jazz clubs of Manhattan by his father aged just five. “He would steal the hearts and souls of innocents with a musical storytelling all his own. “It was these moments and his choosing to take me around the globe any chance he got, that would come to shape my entire world view,” Sal posted on his Facebook page.
“It is an immeasurable loss to the music industry and to the country at large. His contribution to the struggle for liberation will never be forgotten,” South African president, Jacob Zuma said in a statement.
On the global music world, Hugh Masekela in over 50 years of recording jazz music, has made such a huge impact that is difficult to ignore even years from now.
Apart from spending three decades in exile from his home country after honing his craft at age 21, Masekela’s global appeal hit new heights in 1968 when his instrumental single “Grazin’ in the Grass” went to number one in the U.S. charts. As well as close friendships with jazz legends like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Mingus, Masekela also recorded with the Byrds and performed alongside stars such as Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix at the famed 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
Our own Afro jazz and highlife singer, Orlando Julius also had an encounter with Hugh Masekela in the rather impromptu rehearsal of Orlando’s ‘Asiko’ in Network in the 70s, leading to Orlando’s song appearing in the Stewart Levine produced album of Masekela’s ‘The Boy’s Doin It’. Unfortunately, O.J Ekemode was not credited as the writer of the song which was recorded as ‘Going Back To My Roots’ disco track in the 1977 album.
Masekela performed for 50 years touring Europe in 2012 with Paul Simon to celebrate the 25th anniversary. The Jazz musician was married to singer and activist Miriam Makeba, known as “Mama Africa” from 1964 to 1966.