Hugh Masekela Bio
Hugh Ramapolo Masekela (4 April 1939 – 23 January 2018) was a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer. He has been described as “the father of South African jazz”. Masekela was known for his jazz compositions and for writing well-known anti-apartheid songs such as “Soweto Blues” and “Bring Him Back Home”. He also had a number-one US pop hit in 1968 with his version of “Grazing in the Grass”.
Trivia & Hugh Masekela Quick Info
|Hugh Masekela Background information Quick Wiki/Bio|
|Hugh Masekela Born||4 April 1939
Witbank, South Africa
|Hugh Masekela Died||23 January 2018 (aged 78)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Biography Hugh Masekela
Masekela was born in KwaGuqa Township, Witbank, South Africa to Thomas Selena Masekela, who was a health inspector and sculptor and his wife, Pauline Bowers Masekela, a social worker. As a child, he began singing and playing piano and was largely raised by his grandmother, who ran an illegal bar for miners. At the age of 14, after seeing the film Young Man with a Horn (in which Kirk Douglas plays a character modeled on American jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke), Masekela took up playing the trumpet. His first trumpet was bought for him from a local music store by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, the anti-apartheid chaplain at St. Peter’s Secondary School now known as St. Martin’s School (Rosettenville).
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. When Louis Armstrong heard of this band from his friend Huddleston he sent one of his own trumpets as a gift for Hugh. By 1956, after leading other ensembles, Masekela joined Alfred Herbert’s African Jazz Revue.
Later Carrer, Music History
From 1954, Masekela played music that closely reflected 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 Endfor two years.
Hugh Masekela Career
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. They performed to record-breaking audiences in Johannesburg and Cape Town through late 1959 to early 1960.
Following the 21 March 1960 Sharpeville massacre—where 69 protestors 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 in 1960. During that period, Masekela visited the United States, where he was befriended by Harry Belafonte. After securing a scholarship back in London, he moved to the United States to attend the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he studied classical trumpet from 1960 to 1964. In 1964, Mariam Makeba and Masekela were married, divorcing two years later.
US Pop Hits
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 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”. The song became enormously popular, and turned into an unofficial anthem of the anti-apartheid movement and 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 continued to use following his return to South Africa in the early 1990s.
Hugh Masekela Social initiatives
Masekela was involved in several social initiatives, and served 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.
Hugh Masekela Personal life and death
From 1964 to 1966 he was married to singer and activist Miriam Makeba. He had subsequent marriages to Chris Calloway (daughter of Cab Calloway), Jabu Mbatha, and Elinam Cofie. He was the father of American television host Sal Masekela. Poet, educator, and activist Barbara Masekela is his younger sister.
How did Hugh Masekela Die
Masekela died in Johannesburg on the early morning of 23 January 2018 from prostate cancer, aged 78.
Awards and honours
Masekela was nominated for a Grammy Award three times, including a nomination for Best World Music Album for his 2012 album Jabulani, one for Best Musical Cast Show Album for Sarafina! The Music Of Liberation (1989) and one for Best Contemporary Pop Performance for the song “Grazing in the Grass” (1968).
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