Masekela performing in 2009
|Birth name||Hugh Ramopolo Masekela|
4 April 1939 |
Witbank, South Africa
|Occupation(s)||Musician, singer, composer, bandleader|
|Instruments||Trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, cornet, vocals|
|Labels||Mercury, MGM, Uni, Chisa, Blue Thumb, Casablanca Records, Heads Up, Verve, Polygram|
Hugh Ramopolo Masekela (born 4 April 1939) is a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and singer. He is the father of American television host Sal Masekela. He is known for his jazz compositions, as well as for writing well-known anti-apartheid songs such as "Soweto Blues" and "Bring Him Back Home".
Masekela was born in Kwa-Guqa Township, Witbank, South Africa. He began singing and playing piano as a child. At the age of 14, after seeing the film Young Man with a Horn (in which Kirk Douglas plays a character modelled on American jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke), Masekela took up playing the trumpet. His first trumpet was given to him by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, the anti-apartheid chaplain at St. Peter's Secondary School.
Huddleston asked the leader of the then Johannesburg "Native" Municipal Brass Band, Uncle Sauda, to teach Masekela the rudiments of trumpet playing. Masekela quickly mastered the instrument. Soon, some of his schoolmates also became interested in playing instruments, leading to the formation of the Huddleston Jazz Band, South Africa's first youth orchestra. By 1956, after leading other ensembles, Masekela joined Alfred Herbert's African Jazz Revue.
Since 1954, Masekela has played music that closely reflects his life experience. The agony, conflict, and exploitation South Africa faced during the 1950s and 1960s inspired and influenced him to make music and also spread political change. He was an artist who in his music vividly portrayed the struggles and sorrows, as well as the joys and passions of his country. His music protested about apartheid, slavery, government; the hardships individuals were living. Masekela reached a large population that also felt oppressed due to the country's situation.
Following a Manhattan Brothers tour of South Africa in 1958, Masekela wound up in the orchestra of the musical King Kong, written by Todd Matshikiza. King Kong was South Africa's first blockbuster theatrical success, touring the country for a sold-out year with Miriam Makeba and the Manhattan Brothers' Nathan Mdledle in the lead. The musical later went to London's West End for two years.
At the end of 1959, Dollar Brand (later known as Abdullah Ibrahim), Kippie Moeketsi, Makhaya Ntshoko, Johnny Gertze and Hugh formed the Jazz Epistles, the first African jazz group to record an LP and perform to record-breaking audiences in Johannesburg and Cape Town through late 1959 to early 1960. Following 21 March 1960 Sharpeville massacre—where 69 protesting Africans were shot dead in Sharpeville, and the South African government banned gatherings of ten or more people—and the increased brutality of the Apartheid state, Masekela left the country. He was helped by Trevor Huddleston and international friends such as Yehudi Menuhin and John Dankworth, who got him admitted into London's Guildhall School of Music. During that period, Masekela visited the United States, where he was befriended by Harry Belafonte. He attended Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he studied classical trumpet from 1960 to 1964. In 1964, Makeba and Masekela were married, divorcing two years later.
He had hits in the United States with the pop jazz tunes "Up, Up and Away" (1967) and the number-one smash "Grazing in the Grass" (1968), which sold four million copies. He also appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and was subsequently featured in the film Monterey Pop by D. A. Pennebaker. In 1974, Masekela and friend Stewart Levine organised the Zaire 74 music festival in Kinshasa set around the Rumble in the Jungle boxing match.
He has played primarily in jazz ensembles, with guest appearances on recordings by The Byrds ("So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" and "Lady Friend") and Paul Simon ("Further to Fly"). In 1984, Masekela released the album Techno Bush; from that album, a single entitled "Don't Go Lose It Baby" peaked at number two for two weeks on the dance charts. In 1987, he had a hit single with "Bring Him Back Home", which became an anthem for the movement to free Nelson Mandela.
A renewed interest in his African roots led Masekela to collaborate with West and Central African musicians, and finally to reconnect with Southern African players when he set up with the help of Jive Records a mobile studio in Botswana, just over the South African border, from 1980 to 1984. Here he re-absorbed and re-used mbaqanga strains, a style he has continued to use since his return to South Africa in the early 1990s.
In 1985 Masekela founded the Botswana International School of Music (BISM), which held its first workshop in Gaborone in that year. The event, still in existence, continues as the annual Botswana Music Camp, giving local musicians of all ages and from all backgrounds the opportunity to play and perform together. Masekela taught the jazz course at the first workshop, and performed at the final concert.
Also in the 1980s, Masekela toured with Paul Simon in support of Simon's album Graceland, which featured other South African artists such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba, Ray Phiri, and other elements of the band Kalahari, with which Masekela recorded in the 1980s. He also collaborated in the musical development for the Broadway play, Sarafina! He previously recorded with the band Kalahari.
In 2003, he was featured in the documentary film Amandla! In 2004, he released his autobiography, Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela, co-authored with journalist D. Michael Cheers, which thoughtfully detailed Masekela's struggles against apartheid in his homeland, as well as his personal struggles with alcoholism from the late 1970s through to the 1990s. In this period, he migrated, in his personal recording career, to mbaqanga, jazz/funk, and the blending of South African sounds, through two albums he recorded with Herb Alpert, and solo recordings, Techno-Bush (recorded in his studio in Botswana), Tomorrow (featuring the anthem "Bring Him Back Home"), Uptownship (a lush-sounding ode to American R&B), Beatin' Aroun de Bush, Sixty, Time, and Revival. His song "Soweto Blues", sung by his former wife, Miriam Makeba, is a blues/jazz piece that mourns the carnage of the Soweto riots in 1976. He has also provided interpretations of songs composed by Jorge Ben, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Caiphus Semenya, Jonas Gwangwa, Dorothy Masuka and Fela Kuti.
In 2009, Masekela released the album Phola (meaning "to get well, to heal"), his second recording for 4 Quarters Entertainment/Times Square Records. It includes some songs he wrote in the 1980s but never completed, as well as a reinterpretation of "The Joke of Life (Brinca de Vivre)", which he recorded in the mid-1980s. Since October 2007, he has been a board member of the Woyome Foundation for Africa.
In 2010, Masekela was featured, with his son Selema Masekela, in a series of videos on ESPN. The series, called Umlando – Through My Father's Eyes, was aired in 10 parts during ESPN's coverage of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The series focused on Hugh and Selema's travels through South Africa. Hugh brought his son to the places he grew up. It was Selema's first trip to his father's homeland.
In 2016, at Emperors Palace, Johannesburg, Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim performed together for the first time in 60 years, reuniting the Jazz Epistles in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the historic 16 June 1976 youth demonstrations.
Masekela is involved in several social initiatives, and serves for instance as a director on the board of the Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization that provides a daily meal to students of township schools in Soweto.
Awards and honours
- Career Wins:2
- Career Nominations: 7
|Hugh Masekela Grammy Awards History|
|1968||Best Contemporary Pop Performance – Instrumental||Grazin' in the Grass||Pop||Uni Records||Nominated|
- Rhodes University: Doctor of Music (honoris causa), 2015
- University of York Honorary Doctorate in Music 2014
- Order of Ikhamanga: 2010 South African National Orders Ceremony, 27 April 2010.
- Ghana Music Awards: 2007 African Music Legend award
- 2005 Channel O Music Video Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2002 BBC Radio Jazz Awards: International Award of the Year
- Nominated for Broadway's 1988 Tony Award for Best Score (Musical), with music and lyrics collaborator Mbongeni Ngema, for Sarafina!
|Year||Title||Label (original issue)|
|1962||Trumpet Africaine||Mercury (Aug)|
|1966||Grrr||Mercury MG-21109, SR-61109 (Apr)|
|1966||The Americanization of Ooga Booga||MGM E/SE-4372 (Jun)|
|1966||Hugh Masekela's Next Album||MGM E/SE-4415 (Dec)|
|1966||The Emancipation of Hugh Masekela||Chisa Records CHS-4101|
|1967||Hugh Masekela's Latest||Uni 3010, 73010|
|1967||Hugh Masekela Is Alive and Well at the Whisky||Uni 3015, 73015|
|1968||The Promise of a Future||Uni 73028|
|1968||Africa '68||Uni 73020|
|1968||The Lasting Impression of Hugh Masekela||MGM E/SE-4468 (Dec)|
|1970||Reconstruction||Chisa CS 803 (Jul)|
|1971||Hugh Masekela & The Union of South Africa||Chisa CS 808 (May)|
|1972||Home Is Where the Music Is (aka The African Connection)||Blue Thumb Chisa BTS 6003|
|1973||Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz||Blue Thumb Chisa BTS 62|
|1974||I Am Not Afraid||Blue Thumb Chisa BTS 6015|
|1975||The Boy's Doin' It||Casablanca NBLP-7017 (Jun)|
|1976||Colonial Man||Casablanca NBLP-7023 (Jan)|
|1976||Melody Maker||Casablanca NBLP-7036|
|1977||You Told Your Mama Not to Worry||Casablanca NBLP-7079|
|1978||Herb Alpert / Hugh Masekela||Horizon SP-728|
|1978||Main Event Live (with Herb Alpert)||A&M SP-4727|
|1985||Waiting for the Rain||Jive Afrika|
|1992||Beatin' Aroun de Bush||Novus Records|
|1996||Notes of Life||Columbia/Music|
|1998||Black to the Future||Shanachie Records|
|1999||The Best of Hugh Masekela on Novus||RCA|
|2001||Grazing in the Grass: The Best of Hugh Masekela||Sony|
|2002||Live at the BBC||Strange Fruit|
|2004||Still Grazing||Blue Thumb|
|2005||Almost Like Being in Jazz||Chissa Records|
|2006||The Chisa Years: 1965–1975 (Rare and Unreleased)||BBE|
|2007||Live at the Market Theatre||Four-Quarters Ent|
|2012||Friends (Hugh Masekela & Larry Willis)||House of Masekela|
|2012||Playing @ Work||House of Masekela|
|2015||Reconstruction||House of Masekela|
|2016||No Borders||Universal Music|
- H. Masekela, D. Michael Cheers, Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela, Crown, 2004. ISBN 978-0-609-60957-6
- Fairweather, Digby, The Rough Guide to Jazz, St. Martin's Press (2004), p. 13 – ISBN 0-312-27870-5
- Stanley Niaah, Sonjah. "Mapping of Black Atlantic Performance Geographies: From Slave Ship to Ghetto". In Katherine McKittrick and Clyde Woods (eds), Black Geographies and the Politics of Place, Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007, pp. 193–217.
- Hugh Masekela Archived 14 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine. – Home Page.
- Yanow, Scott. Trumpet Kings: The Players Who Shaped the Sound of Jazz Trumpet, Backbeat Books (2001), p. 248. ISBN 0-87930-608-4
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974–2003. Record Research. p. 168.
- Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 427. CN 5585.
- Masekela, Hugh. Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela, Crown Publishers (2004), ISBN 0-609-60957-2.
- Board members, Woyome Foundation for Africa.
- "Trumpet player and so much more, Hugh Masekela", African American Registry.
- ESPN – Umlando – Through My Father's Eyes.
- DMBAlmanac.com 12-3-2013 Johannesburg
- Podbrey, Gwen, "Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim to perform on one stage", Destinyman.com, 4 May 2016.
- "Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya and Hugh Masekela: A Tribute to Jazz Epistles", News, Abdullah Ibrahim website, 13 May 2016.
- "Hugh Masekela & Abdullah Ibrahim perform a tribute to the Jazz Epistles in JHB", Black Major, 15 June 2016.
- Hugh Masekela Grammy History
- "Rhodes gives Hugh Masekela an honorary doctorate", Times Live, 1 April 2015.
- "University of York honours 16 for their contribution to society", University of York, 11 July 2014.
- The Ghana Music Awards 2007.
- 2005 Channel O Music Video Awards.
- BBC Radio Jazz Awards Archived 13 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
- Hugh Masekela biography, IMDb.
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