Fans re­mem­ber South African jazz mu­si­cian Hugh Masekela

South Florida Times - - OBITUARIES - By As­so­ci­ated Press

KRISTA MAHR

JOHANNESBURG (AP)- Leg­endary South African jazz mu­si­cian and anti-apartheid ac­tivist Hugh Masekela has died at the age of 78 after a decade-long fight with cancer, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from his fam­ily on Tues­day.

Of­ten called the “Fa­ther of South African jazz,'' Masekela died in Johannesburg after what his fam­ily said was a “pro­tracted and coura­geous bat­tle with prostate cancer.'' Masekela was a rare artist who suc­ceeded in fus­ing pol­i­tics with his mu­sic, mak­ing his songs and per­for­mances com­pelling and time­less.

Trum­peter, singer and com­poser Masekela, af­fec­tion­ately known lo­cally as “Bra Hugh,” started play­ing the horn at 14. He quickly be­came an in­te­gral part of the 1950s jazz scene in Johannesburg as a mem­ber of the band the Jazz Epis­tles and a mem­ber of the orches­tra in the ground­break­ing jazz opera, “King Kong.''

Con­do­lences from fans poured out on so­cial me­dia pay­ing trib­ute to the in­flu­en­tial mu­si­cian's ca­reer.

“A baobob tree has fallen,'' Nathi Mthethwa, South Africa's min­is­ter for arts and cul­ture, wrote on Twit­ter.”The na­tion has lost a one of a kind mu­si­cian. We can safely say Bra Hugh was one of the great ar­chi­tects of Afro-Jazz and he up­lifted the soul of our na­tion through his time­less mu­sic.''

South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma ex­pressed his con­do­lences, say­ing Masekela “kept the torch of free­dom alive glob­ally, fight­ing apartheid through his mu­sic and mo­bi­liz­ing in­ter­na­tional sup­port ... His con­tri­bu­tion to the strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion will never be for­got­ten.''

Masekela in­spired gen­er­a­tions of musi cians in jazz and be­yond and col­lab­o­rated in re­cent years with South African house mu­sic DJ Black Cof­fee, who tweeted Tues­day:”I have no words.''

Kenya Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta paid trib­ute to Masekela in a se­ries of tweets that showed a pic­ture of the two walk­ing to­gether. Keny­atta wrote of Masekela:”His mu­sic then was the mu­sic of a free Africa: full of anger at in­jus­tice; con­fi­dent that one day these in­jus­tices would be over­come.''

In the 1960s he went into ex­ile in the United King­dom and the United States, us­ing his mu­sic to spread aware­ness about South Africa's op­pres­sive sys­tem of white-mi­nor­ity rule. He scored an in­ter­na­tional num­ber one hit in 1968 with”Graz­ing in The Grass.''

Masekela spent time in both New York and Los An­ge­les, per­form­ing at the 1967 Mon­terey Pop Fes­ti­val with some of the era's most iconic mu­si­cians, in­clud­ing Ja­nis Jo­plin, Otis Red­ding and Jimi Hen­drix. He col­lab­o­rated with many mu­si­cians in­clud­ing Herb Alpert and was mar­ried to South African singer and ac­tivist Miriam Makeba for two years.

In the 1980s Masekela ap­peared with Paul Si­mon and sev­eral other South African mu­si­cians as part of the “Grace­land'' al­bum tour.

Many of his com­po­si­tions were about the strug­gle for ma­jor­ity rule and full demo­cratic rights in South Africa. Masekela's catchy up­beat 1987 song”Bring Him Back Home'' call­ing for Nel­son Man­dela's re­lease from prison be­came an in­ter­na­tional an­them for the anti-apartheid move­ment.

Masekela re­turned to South Africa in 1990 after Man­dela was freed and the African Na­tional Congress party was un­banned. He re­leased over 40 al­bums and toured in South Africa and in­ter­na­tion­ally un­til late in 2017.

Sal Masekela, Masekela's son who is also a mu­si­cian, wrote in a state­ment that it was”dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend that this mo­ment is real,'' re­call­ing his fa­ther's per­for­mances in New York when he would “steal the hearts and souls of in­no­cents with a mu­si­cal sto­ry­telling all his own.''

“My big­gest ob­ses­sion is to show Africans and the world who the peo­ple of Africa re­ally are,'' Masekela is quoted as say­ing on his of­fi­cial web­site.

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