Five books in hon­our of Hugh Masekela

Sunday Trust - - ARTS & IDEAS - Eugenia@ya­hoo.com (SMS 08033109820) with Eugenia Abu

On Sat­ur­day, 22nd Oc­to­ber 2016, I sat in the au­di­ence at the MTV Mu­sic awards oth­er­wise known as the MA­MAS at the Tick­etPro Dome in Johannesburg and watched as leg­endary South African trum­peter Hugh Masekela re­ceived a life­time achieve­ment award. I was mes­mer­ized and was be­yond ex­cited to fi­nally watch live, a mu­si­cal ge­nius of our time. He did a rap piece and keep­ing with the mod­ern times, de­liv­ered it as part mu­sic and part po­etry with the theme of win­ning. Typ­i­cal of him and his many years of ac­tivism, Mr Masekela urged Africans in his ac­cep­tance speech to re­store our her­itage. He urged us all es­pe­cially cre­atives to re-learn and reteach our own lan­guage to our peo­ple and the rest of the world. He sounded a note of cau­tion, if we don’t, he con­tin­ued, in a cou­ple of years’ time our chil­dren will be say­ing we used to be Africans. It was pro­found and timely. Masekela died last week of prostate can­cer at the age of 78 and the whole world has been pay­ing trib­ute to a man who put South African mu­sic on the map, mar­ried some of the world’s most in­ter­est­ing women and fought apartheid from ex­ile. Aside from be­ing ex­iled, liv­ing and per­form­ing first in Eng­land and fi­nally set­tling in the United States, Masekela faced his demons of drugs and al­co­hol and fi­nally found peace in his home, re­turn­ing home to South Africa af­ter Man­dela be­came Pres­i­dent. As the world con­tin­ues to talk about his legacy and hav­ing been lucky enough to watch what was con­sid­ered his fi­nal per­for­mance, it is fit­ting to pay him trib­ute in these four books and a News­pa­per ar­ti­cle about his life, his as­so­ciates and his friends.

1) Still graz­ing, the mu­si­cal jour­ney of Hugh Masekela writ­ten by Hugh Masekela and Michael Cheers. This is an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal book about the leg­endary mu­si­cian. Masekela, a gi­ant of Jazz and a pioneer in bring­ing the voice and spirit of Africa to the West writes about his amaz­ing ca­reer. He fell into the rau­cous soul of 60’s Amer­ica and was adopted by Amer­i­can mu­si­cal greats to in­clude Dizzy Gille­spie. The book de­scribes his jour­ney into ex­ile, his great and not so great per­for­mances and his hunger for home as an ex­ile. This book also talks about his love life and his fight to dis­credit and de­stroy apartheid from the out­side. His dis­agree­ment with box­ing pro­moter Don King over Mo­hammed Ali’s rum­ble in the jun­gle fight, his be­ing on the wrong side of rev­o­lu­tions all over West Africa and his bat­tle with al­co­hol are all well cap­tured in this book that opens up about the leg­end’s life. A “must have” not only for fans of Hugh Masekela but for Jazz his­to­ri­ans and en­thu­si­asts all over the world.

2) Makeba: My Story by Miriam Makeba. This is the au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of the leg­endary South African singer and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist, Miriam Makeba. The story of Hugh Masekela can­not be told with­out Miriam Makeba. This is be­cause she was mar­ried to him. Ac­cord­ing to the Bos­ton Her­ald, it is hard to find some­one who is not moved by Miriam’s story. A cry of the heart and in spite of her many sor­rows, she tells her story with such grace which is char­ac­ter­is­tic of the strength and re­fine­ment of her char­ac­ter. It is hard to tell Makeba’s life story with­out Masekela in it.

3) Jazz, pop­u­lar mu­sic and pol­i­tics in South Africa by Gwen Ansel. This book in­tro­duced by Ab­dul­lahi Ibrahim gives out such a great over­view of the global in­flu­ence of Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba and other African great mu­si­cians and the growth of re­sis­tance mu­sic and how jazz be­came a key part of South Africa’s strug­gles in Soweto blues. In­ter­views with hun­dreds of mu­si­cians forms the ta­pes­try of this in­cred­i­ble book.

4) In­ter­view with South African News­pa­per City Press in Oc­to­ber 2016, Masekela says his last al­bum “No borders” was meant to por­tray his in­ner­most feel­ings.” I don’t be­lieve in borders be­cause we did not cre­ate them. I just wanted to do an in­ter­est­ing di­as­pora kind of feel so peo­ple can see that we are all the same peo­ple.”

5) Any book on Fela Aniku­lapo Kuti. Not only did Hugh and Fela per­form, they were friends and Hugh was in­flu­enced in sev­eral ways by Fela’s mu­sic. Their lives were in­ter­twined in sev­eral re­spects and Hugh had the great­est re­spect for Fela as Fela did him. In the long run, Hugh also had a good re­la­tion­ship with Fela’s son, Femi and there were many in­stances where they per­formed to­gether.

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