vocalist, song-writer and global ambassador for black South
African culture and politics, Hugh Masekela has a vast number
of achievements. Born in 1939 near Johannesburg, Hugh had an
uncle who had a great influence on him musically. Hugh was obsessed
with the music he heard around him, whether it was traditional
or jazz from America. He learnt to play the trumpet which, aged
14, he was given by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston. Then he and
some school mates formed the Huddleston Jazz Band. In
the late 1950s Hugh played in the orchestra of the famous musical
'King-Kong' staged in South Africa and in London for 2 years.
Hugh also joined African Jazz Revue and in the late 1950s recorded
the first album by a black South African jazz band, the Jazz
Epistles with pianist Dollar Brand (who is now called Abdullah
Ibrahim), Kippie Moeketsi and others.
impossible for Hugh to remain in South Africa in the turbulent
conditions of apartheid - in 1960 he left for Britain and joined
the Guildhall School of Music in London. After that he moved
to USA and studied at the Manhattan School of Music in New York,
working with Miriam Makeba (to whom he was married in the 1960s),
Harry Belafonte, Dizzie Gillespie and Herp Albert.
In the 1960s
Hugh started his own record label 'Chisa' and went on to make
recordings, starting with The Americanization of Ooga-Booga
and then Promise of a Future which includes 'Grazing
in the Grass', a huge hit which is still very popular. Still
Grazing (2004) is the title of Hugh's very detailed and
frank autobiography which also contains wonderful photos.
became internationally famous in the 1970s but being very homesick
he didn't want to remain in USA.
Africa was impossible
instead he went on a pilgrimage to several other African countries
- Guinea, Ghana, Zaire and Nigeria. At that time Hugh met up
with Fela Kuti (Hugh has a special love for
and composed a special tribute song, 'Fela') who introduced
him to a Ghanaian band, Hedzoleh Soundz, and they subsequently
recorded 3 albums. During this period Hugh and Dudu Pukwana
also recorded the very important Home is where Music is.
Hugh moved to Botswana in 1981 and began the Botswana International
School of Music and he had a band there called Kalahari. They
had to leave for Britain again and this time Hugh created the
musical 'Sarafina'. He was also part of Paul Simon's Graceland
tour and at last was able to return to South Africa in 1990
after 30 years in exile.
Hugh's highly successful albums include Black to the Future,
Sixty and Time. He has recorded over 40 albums.
Many of Hugh's classic tracks, many of which focus on the years
of protest and struggle, are on compilation albums such as Amandla:
A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony (2003), and Mandela
(1996), for example 'Stimela','Father of our Nation' and 'Bring
Him Back Home'.
Hugh has set up a project which operates in several African
countries and aims to support younger talented African musicians.
On his album Revival (2005) he set out to work with
several young kwaito artists who he greatly admires. For Hugh,
one of the world's top jazz musicians, the result was educational,
enjoyable and fulfilling. Hugh has been a part of numerous inspiring
projects, for example 'Jazz Odyssey - Music and Migration' in
2006. On stage he oozes charisma and humour! To
hear an interview with Hugh recorded in May 2007 click here:
Part 1; Part