Sad news music fans. Earlier today famed South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, singer and father of South African Jazz Hugh Masekela passed away. He was 78 years old. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008.
In a career spanning more than five decades, Masekela gained international recognition with his distinctive Afro-Jazz sound and hits such as “Grazing the Grass” (which reached number on the Billboard 100 chart in the USA) and “Soweto Blues”.
Here are 10 things you may not have known about Hugh Masekela:
- Hugh Masekela was born in 1939 in Kwa-Guqa Township in Witbank, Mpumalanga.
- He began singing and playing piano as a child. When he was 14 years old, he took up playing the trumpet after watching Young Man with a Horn (a film in which Kirk Douglas plays a character modelled on American jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke). His first trumpet was given to him by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston (an anti-apartheid chaplain at St. Peter’s Secondary School).
- He left South Africa in 1960 when he 21 years old after the Sharpeville masacre happened and the Apartheid government banned gatherings of 10 people or more. He only made returned to South Africa 30 years later.
- Hugh Masekela released a total of 49 studio albums between 1962 and 2016.
- He won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Pop Performance – Instrumental in 1968.
- He spent the early 1960s mastering his musical craft at the London Guildhall School of Music and at the Manhattan School of Music. At the time, he met fellow African political exiles and anti-apartheid campaigners, including American actor Harry Belafonte.
- He moved to Botswana in 1981 where he founded the International School of Music.
- Hugh Masekela performed with Paul Simon on his Graceland Tour in 1980s. He defended Mr. Simon when he was accused of breaking a cultural boycott.
- He got married to Miriam Makeba in 1964, they got divorced in 1966. He married his second wife, Elinam Cofie in 1999. They divorced in 2013. He leaves behind 2 children: Actor, TV host & Television commentator Selema Mabena “Sal” Masekela and Pula Twala.
- Hugh Masekela opened up the 2010 FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert. It was held at Soccer City in Soweto.
I’m not a huge fan of Jazz, but I have a lot of respect for Brah Hugh. I had the privilege to watch him perform live and photograph him at Oppikoppi in 2014 and I was completely blown away. Today is a sad day for SA Music and he will be missed. RIP Brah Hugh.
Feel free to listen to his award-winning song “Grazing The Grass” below: