South African Jazz Legend, Hugh Masekela Dies At 78

Hugh Masekela. Credit:Supplied

In a statement issued by the South African government, President Jacob Zuma mourns the loss of the musician: "Mr. Masekela was one of the pioneers of jazz music in South Africa whose talent was recognized and honored internationally over many years".

Later, after writing the seminal anti-apartheid protest anthem, Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela), he would return to NY once again, in the late 1980s, to craft the music for the stage production Sarafina! Do not cut, copy or lift any content from this website without our consent.

Masekela spent the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s living outside South Africa and battling the suppression of Apartheid through his music - including writing the 1977 Miriam Makeba protest song "Soweto Blues", about the 1976 Soweto uprising.

In 1974, Masekela released his album I Am Not Afraid, which included Stimela (Coal Train), a song that became synonymous with his performances for decades to come. Hugh was largely raised by his grandmother who ran an illegal bar for miners. South Africa has lost one of its best.

"My biggest obsession is to show Africans and the world who the people of Africa really are", Masekela is quoted as saying on his official website. "Hugh Masekela's legacy is that of an inter-generational institution, someone who across generation after generation articulated our people's experiences and reflected our evolving history through music".

Here, he befriended musician and political activist Harry Belafonte, and his music increasingly began reflecting the harsh realities of repression and discrimination back home. He also had a number 1 United States pop hit in 1968 with his version of "Grazing in the Grass".




Masekela was by then in the midst of a late-career resurgence, buoyed by a collaboration with Paul Simon.

"I humbly ask you on bended knees to carry these thoughts with you as you go out into the world and perhaps think about how humiliating it will be 20 years from today when your children are asked who they really are and their response is "They say we used to be Africans very long ago".

Masekela returned to South Africa in 1990 after Mandela was freed and the African National Congress party was unbanned.

Ken Addy did not only follow Hugh Masekela's musical exploits.

Masekela's marriages to singer Chris Calloway, daughter of American bandleader Cab Calloway, and to Jabu Mbatha also ended in divorce.

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