Archive for jazz. activist. South Africa

Hugh Masekela; Living Jazz Legend!

Posted in CULTURE, Mother Africa, Spotlight with tags on July 13, 2010 by Mijiza Zeyzey

Hugh Ramopolo Masekela was born April 4, 1939, in Witbank, South Africa. As a child he sang and played piano. At age 14, a movie on American Jazz trumpeter, Bix Beiderbecke inspired him to play the trumpet. Anti-apartheid chaplain, Archbishop (then Father) Trevor Huddleston gave him his first trumpet. Archbishop Huddleston also helped him to receive tuition for lessons. He soon played with South Africa’s first youth orchestra; the Huddleston Jazz Band.

Other members of the orchestra were:

  • Jonas Gwangwa
  • Kippie Moeketsi
  • Pianist Dollar Brand, now known as Abdullah Ibrahim

In 1961, Masekela was exiled from South Africa just as so many other activists had been. Harry Belafonte helped him come to the U.S. where he recorded many greats such as Grazing in the Grass.

Masekela met his first wife,  Miriam Makeba,  in the South African-styled musical King Kong. Later he wrote Soweto Blues for Makeba,  and they recorded the politically charged song together.

In 1988, Masekela was nominated for Best Score, Tony Award for the music and lyric collaboration with Mbongeni Ngema, for Sarafina!

In 1999, Masekela married his present wife, Elinam Cofie.