Date of Birth: Friday 04 April 1930


 

Hugh Masekela
Hugh Masekela 2009.jpg

Masekela performing in 2009

Background information
Birth name Hugh Ramopolo Masekela
Born 4 April 1939 (age 78)
Witbank, South Africa
Genres JazzMbaqanga
Occupation(s) Musician, singer, composer, bandleader
Instruments Trumpetflugelhorntrombonecornet, vocals
Years active 1956–present
Labels MercuryMGMUni, Chisa, Blue ThumbCasablanca RecordsHeads UpVervePolygram

Hugh Ramopolo Masekela (born 4 April 1939) is a South African trumpeter, flugelhornistcornetist, 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".

 

Contents

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Early life[edit]

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.[1]

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 apartheidslavery, government; the hardships individuals were living. Masekela reached a large population that also felt oppressed due to the country's situation.[2][3]

Following a Manhattan Brothers tour of South Africa in 1958, Masekela wound up in the orchestra of the musical King Kong, written by Todd MatshikizaKing 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.

Career[edit]

At the end of 1959, Dollar Brand (later known as Abdullah Ibrahim), Kippie MoeketsiMakhaya 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.[4] 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.

Masekela in Washington, D.C., 2007

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.[5] 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 MambazoMiriam MakebaRay Phiri, and other elements of the band Kalahari, with which Masekela recorded in the 1980s.[6] He also collaborated in the musical development for the Broadway play, Sarafina! He previously recorded with the band Kalahari.

Masekela in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 26 June 2013

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,[7] 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 BushSixtyTime, 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 BenAntônio Carlos JobimCaiphus SemenyaJonas GwangwaDorothy 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.[8][9]

In 2010, Hugh 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.[10]

On 3 December 2013, Masekela guested with the Dave Matthews Band in Johannesburg, South Africa. He joined Rashawn Ross on trumpet for "Proudest Monkey" and "Grazing in the Grass".[11]

Social initiatives[edit]

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[edit]

Grammy history[edit]

  • Career Wins:2
  • Career Nominations: 7[12]
Hugh Masekela Grammy Awards History
Year Category Title Genre Label Result
1968 Best Contemporary Pop Performance – Instrumental Grazin' in the Grass Pop Uni Records Nominated

Honours[edit]

Discography[edit]

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)
1969 Masekela Uni 73041
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
1982 Home Moonshine/Columbia
1984 Techno-Bush Jive Afrika
1985 Waiting for the Rain Jive Afrika
1987 Tomorrow Warner Bros.
1989 Uptownship Jive/Novus Records
1992 Beatin' Aroun de Bush Novus Records
1994 Hope Triloka Records
1994 Stimela Connoisseur Collection
1996 Notes of Life Columbia/Music
1998 Black to the Future Shanachie Records
1999 The Best of Hugh Masekela on Novus RCA
2000 Sixty Shanachie
2001 Grazing in the Grass: The Best of Hugh Masekela Sony
2002 Time Columbia
2003 The Collection Universal/Spectrum
2003 Hope Triloka Records
2004 Still Grazing Blue Thumb
2005 Revival Heads Up
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
2009 Phola Four-Quarters Ent
2011 We Are One (Black Coffee featuring Hugh Masekela) Vega Records
2012 Playing @ Work House of Masekela
2012 Friends (Hugh Masekela & Larry Willis) House of Masekela

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Jump up^ Fairweather, Digby, The Rough Guide to Jazz, St. Martin's Press (2004), p. 13 – ISBN 0-312-27870-5
  2. Jump up^ 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.
  3. Jump up^ Hugh Masekela – Home Page.
  4. Jump up^ Yanow, Scott. Trumpet Kings: The Players Who Shaped the Sound of Jazz Trumpet, Backbeat Books (2001), p. 248. ISBN 0-87930-608-4
  5. Jump up^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974–2003. Record Research. p. 168.
  6. Jump up^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 427. CN 5585.
  7. Jump up^ Masekela, Hugh. Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela, Crown Publishers (2004), ISBN 0-609-60957-2.
  8. Jump up^ Board members, Woyome Foundation for Africa.
  9. Jump up^ "Trumpet player and so much more, Hugh Masekela", African American Registry.
  10. Jump up^ ESPN – Umlando – Through My Father's Eyes
  11. Jump up^ DMBAlmanac.com 12-3-2013 Johannesburg
  12. Jump up^ Hugh Masekela Grammy History
  13. Jump up^ "Rhodes gives Hugh Masekela an honorary doctorate"Times Live, 1 April 2015.
  14. Jump up^ "University of York honours 16 for their contribution to society", University of York, 11 July 2014.
  15. Jump up^ The Ghana Music Awards 2007.
  16. Jump up^ 2005 Channel O Music Video Awards.
  17. Jump up^ BBC Radio Jazz Awards
  18. Jump up^ Hugh Masekela biography, IMDb

 

 

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