Portraits 2011 - 2018
Born in the small mining town of Witbank, South Africa on April 4, 1939, Hugh Ramapolo Masekela was “bewitched” by music at an early age and, at 17, received his second trumpet from Louis Armstrong.
Along with Kippie Moeketsi, Jonas Gwangwa and Abdullah Ibrahim (then Dollar Brand), Johnny Gertze and Makhaya Ntshoko, he was a member of South Africa’s firstall-African bebop band The Jazz Epistles – Jazz Epistle: Verse 1.
After leaving, South Africa Hugh Masekela began his schooling at the Manhattan School of Music in September of 1960. In 1968 he recorded the million-seller LP The Promise Of A Future, which featured the chart-topping mbaqanga tune “Grazing In The Grass”.
In 1973 Masekela embarked on an African cultural excursion which would produce such songs as “Ashiko”, “The Boy’s Doin It”, “In The Marketplace”, “Soweto Blues” and the anthemic ‘Stimela’.
In 1987 he recorded and released the Mandela-inspired anthem ‘Bring Him Back Home’, and participated as a featured artist, along with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Miriam Makeba on the triumphant global Paul Simon Graceland Tour. Later that year, he would be musical director on the smash Broadway musical Sarafina!
In September of 1990 he returned to South Africa, after thirty long years, whereupon he embarked on the countrywide homecoming Sekunjalo tour. Masekela continued to perform locally, on the African continent, and throughout the global music circuit. Beloved the world-over from Stockholm to Senegal, Hugh Masekela passed on from this life on January 23, 2018.
‘One of the greatest things that could really happen to Africa is for us to get rid of the borders and for the leadership not to think that the countries belong to them... We didn't create the borders to start with.’ Hugh Masekela