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Profile of Hugh Masekela
At a time when so many challenges plague our music industry, Hugh Masekela is a study in calm and measured success, having worked virtually with the entirety of the crème de la crème of the music world, across genre, age and all other boundaries.
Bra Hugh, as he is affectionately known, has rightly become the doyen of South African jazz trumpeters. He is a musical establishment in his own right.
About the role of music in the struggle for liberation, he once famously joked that “we will go down in history as an army that spent a lot of time singing, rather than fighting”.
Masekela is as consummate a jazz musician as he has been an exponent and developer of local music. His soulful sounds and showmanship have endeared him to generations of music lovers worldwide.
Exiled from his native South Africa for 30 years, he travelled the world, receiving worldwide acclaim as musician and ambassador for the rich cultural tapestry emanating from South Africa.
He left these shores in the 1960s to attend the Manhattan School of Music. With Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba, he helped introduce South African rhythms and melodies to, among others, American audiences. Jazz was never to be the same again.
When he spoke out against South African apartheid policies, he found himself banished from his homeland. During the 1970s and 1980s, he lived in various countries on the African continent, returning to South Africa in 1991, where he still plays a formidable role as developer of music in the democratic South Africa.
Masekela has recorded more than 38 chart-topping albums in 46 years and sold more than five million copies worldwide.
Masekela’s signature single, Grazing in the Grass, sold more than four million units worldwide. He has appeared as guest artist on more than 1 000 records.
He continues to make his mark on the country’s musical landscape, helping and collaborating with old and young alike.