Masekela, Hugh (South Africa)  
Hugh Masekela © Eugene Arries

INTERNATIONALLY acclaimed for decades, trumpeter, bandleader, composer and lyricist Hugh Masekela is known for his professionalism and charisma to fans of his mix of jazz, bebop, funk and Afrobeat from New York to Dakar.

Celebrating his 60th birthday, he draws on years of diverse artistic influences, with an abundance of records to his credit. His latest album - modestly titled "Sixty" - crowns over four decades of a prolific career, and by August 2000 had attained "platinum" status in South Africa, with sales exceeding 50 000 units.

Of all the musicians exiled by apartheid, it was Masekela who probably became the most noted of South Africaís cultural ambassadors-at-large and certainly one who has emerged unbowed and kicking from the rigours of those hard, fast years.

By the age of 20, he was in full swing as a member of the Jazz Epistles with renowned pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, having taken up the trumpet in his teens with the encouragement of the late Father Trevor Huddleston, his school chaplain. One of his first trumpets came from none other than Louis Armstrong. Huddleston met the legendary American jazzman while on a trip to New York, and returned with the instrument that would play a part in setting Masekela on a trajectory around the globe.

Masekela arrived in London in 1960 to study at the Guildhall School of Music, but then took off for New York, where he studied in Manhattan. His first album, Trumpet Africa, came out in 1962. His live album two years later, The Americanisation of Ooga Booga, became a hit, kicked off by Californian radio playlists.

trumpet, vocals, bandleader, arranger
Genre: African Jazz, jazz

The single 'Grazing in the Grass' in the early seventies topped the Rolling Stones, Jumping Jack Flash and Herb Alpertís This Guyís in Love with You in the US charts.

After retouching his roots with the likes of Caiphus Semenya, Jonas Gwangwa and Dudu Pukwana, he moved on to West Africa and teamed up with Fela Anikulapo Kutiís band in Lagos.
"I stayed at the Mainland Hotel and joined up with Fela every day. I found certain vitality in Afrobeat. Playing with the band was like being on a big fat cloud. You couldnít fall off."

Some of the eighties was spent closer to home, in Lesotho but mostly Botswana, where in 1984 he had set up a mobile studio and recorded Techno-Bush , with the memorable dance-hit single Donít Go Lose It Baby.

After signing to Warner Brothers in 1987 he released Tomorrow, a smooth production which mixed tougher-hewn tracks with the Mandela tribute, Bring Him Back Home and the ballad London Fog.

Paul Simonís Graceland tour delivered a new kind of exposure to Masekela, alongside Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and with fellow South African bandmembers such as Bakithi Khumalo, Morris Goldberg and Tony Cedras.

In 1990, Masekela returned to South Africa, and soon embarked on a mammoth homecoming spectacle, billed as "Sekunjalo" ("This is IT!"). Accompanied by Sankomota and Bayete, the show - which ran in excess of 4 hours - played to capacity audiences at over 15 shows from Pietersburg in the North, through Joburg and Durban, the Eastern Cape and Cape Town.

Hugh Masekela
Masekela's homecoming has been an inspiration for him, and the many South African musicians who have worked with and alongside him. His pivotal role as a musican and bandleader extends into that of mentor, commentator, and a cross-generational reference point for South African cultural life. He has continued to record, and of course, to tour internationally. The events - from special to the ordinary - which he has performed at, defy listing.

Masekela takes his place among those near-legendary South African artists, who with their pan-African experience and global horizons, have carved out an international landscape for South African music.

- Steve Gordon-
  Recordings : Masekela, Hugh
Homecoming Concert DVD

Homecoming Concert DVD

Black To The Future

Black To The Future

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