Hugh Masekela, South African jazz legend dead at 78

Hugh Masekela. Credit:Supplied

Hugh Masekela, gave us many songs, a reason to dance to Jazz, & combined that with a trumpet, not only to connect us to entertainment, but also to give South Africa, a liberating & powerful voice against Apartheid.

Masekela had success in the United States with a pop-jazz tune, "Up, Up and Away", in 1967. As a child, he began playing the piano, but a movie about jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, Young Man with a Horn, inspired him to shift his musical allegiances.

Growing violence and turmoil had led Masekela to leave South Africa in 1960 for exile in England and then the USA, where he continued to reach a larger audience, appearing with the likes of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix at the famous 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

With the Sharpeville massacre in mind and with jazz being seen as an expression of resistance, performances and broadcasts in South Africa were severely restricted. The two legendary musicians are still remembered for their strong and inspirational careers and efforts to resist apartheid, and the song is considered to be one of the biggest and most significant anti-apartheid songs.

Masekela toured with Paul Simon in the 1980s and released anti-apartheid anthems such as "Soweto Blues" in 1977 and "Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela)" in 1987.

"Volumes of African-language history and literature books lie covered with dust and ticks in basements and warehouses all over the continent and parts of Europe".

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He opened the 2010 FIFA World Cup kick-off concert and performed at the event's opening ceremony in Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium.

But his music never strayed far from politics.

Masekela received three nominations at the 2017 Afrima Awards in the categories of Best Male Artiste in Southern Africa for his recent single Shango, Album of the Year for his recent album No Borders and for the Best Artiste in African Jazz.

NYC reflected the greater admiration Masekela enjoyed here in the US.

In her condolence message, Amina noted that Masekela was gifted in using the trumpet. In 1999, he married Ghanaian-born Elinam Cofie.

Masekela returned to South Africa in 1990 after Mandela was freed and the African National Congress party was unbanned. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available. "Our heritage has been condemned over the years by religion and colonization, and by Western media and culture, and unless African music is owned, produced, distributed, packaged and sold by Africans to Africans in Africa, you can't say African music is growing".

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