Le­sotho mourns Bra Hugh

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - Mo­halenyane Phakela

THE lo­cal en­ter­tain­ment re­cently joined the rest of the world in mourn­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed South African Jazz mae­stro, Hugh Masekela, who died last Tues­day at the age of 78 af­ter a long bat­tle with prostate can­cer.

An iconic com­poser, singer and in­stru­men­tal­ist, Masekela’s ca­reer spanned over five decades in which he re­leased 40 al­bums and gain­ing in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion with his dis­tinc­tive Afro-Jazz sound and hits such as “Soweto Blues”, which served as one of the sound­tracks for the anti-apartheid move­ment.

He was billed to per­form in Le­sotho on 23 De­cem­ber 2017 at the Le­sotho Tourism Fes­ti­val (LETOFE) but he had to can­cel due to de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health.

A let­ter that was writ­ten to LETOFE or­gan­is­ers in De­cem­ber by his man­ager, An­drew Josh Ge­or­giou, in­di­cated that he was un­able to come “due to med­i­cal rea­sons”.

“He (Masekela) had been mak­ing good progress while re­ceiv­ing treat­ment but un­for­tu­nately con­tracted a ‘su­per-bug’ virus in the hospi­tal which sig­nif­i­cantly im­pacted on his re­cov­ery,” the let­ter stated.

“Thank­fully he has man­aged to beat the virus but his doc­tors have ad­vised against any travel or live en­gage­ment in or­der to have suf­fi­cient time to rest and re­cu­per­ate.

“Bra Hugh is very sorry to dis­ap­point his fans in Le­sotho but hopefully we can resched­ule for a suit­able date in the new year.”

LETOFE Sound of Blue prin­ci­pal or­gan­iser, Mon­toeli ‘Moleli re­cently told this pub­li­ca­tion that Masekela’s death came as a huge blow as they had ex­pected he would make it to the fes­ti­val this year.

“We had booked Bra Hugh very early last year for LETOFE and when he had a set­back around June he sus­pended his shows for three months but promised he would make it to LETOFE since it was sched­uled for De­cem­ber,” ‘Moleli said.

“I vis­ited his of­fice in Jo­han­nes­burg in Oc­to­ber to have him sign the gui­tar which was pre­sented to Frank Leepa’s fam­ily dur­ing the fes­ti­val and on my way there I learned that he had been ad­mit­ted in hospi­tal af­ter catch­ing a bug.

“Bra Hugh loved Le­sotho so much, es­pe­cially Thaba Bo­siu as the hub of Ba­sotho his­tory and was greatly look­ing for­ward to per­form­ing there and even when he can­celled many other shows he never can­celled LETOFE. He was still look­ing for­ward to mak­ing it up to his fans this year and we had also hoped he would beat the can­cer and come through but un­for­tu­nately lost the bat­tle.

“His death is a huge blow to the en­tire in­dus­try and I am pre­par­ing to go to his me­mo­rial to pay my last re­spects, to a col­league and friend.”

‘Moleli fur­ther re­vealed that Masekela was not only a busi­ness as­so­ciate but a friend, fur­ther re­call­ing the mem­o­ries they shared to­gether. “I was in­tro­duced to Bra Hugh by

Ntate Tṧepo (Tṧola) back in 2003 when I booked (the late) Jabu Khany­ile through Bra Hugh’s Chissa Records. Af­ter that I worked with him in 2006 when we col­lab­o­rated with him and Don Laka to host an in­door Jazz show at ‘Man­thabiseng Con­ven­tion Cen­tre which was sold out.

“Due to the high de­mand that year, he came back in De­cem­ber for LETOFE. He was a close friend of Bra Tom (Prime Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane) and while per­form­ing at LETOFE that year he shouted La Chaba, which is Bra Tom’s ABC party slo­gan. That was fol­lowed by a lot of com­ments as ABC had just been born and it was ahead of the 2007 na­tional elec­tions.

“I be­lieve who­ever Bra Hugh met on a busi­ness level ended up be­ing his friend for he al­ways turned each re­la­tion­ship into friend­ship. I re­mem­ber when he first came to Le­sotho and I had to pick him from the air­port as we had only been talk­ing over the phone and he was con­stantly re­fer­ring to me as Ntate Mon­toeli and when I got there he jok­ingly said he dis­gusted to have called a boy Ntate.

“Ev­ery time he came to Le­sotho he would pre­fer to be hosted by me. There was this time he came for the Morija Art and Cul­tural Fes­ti­val. He ar­rived on a Fri­day and on Satur­day he asked me to take him to Ntate Tṧepo Tsola’s home in Tey­ateya­neng as Ntate Tṧepo’s sis­ter had passed on.

“He was a punc­tual per­son and one time I went to fetch him from the ho­tel and found him al­ready wait­ing out­side and he told me I was five min­utes late. He would ar­rive a day be­fore his shows and we would go to the Chi­nese restau­rant as he loved their food. Be­fore ev­ery per­for­mance he would pray with his band, he was sim­ply amaz­ing,” he said.

THE late South African Jazz mae­stro Hugh Masekela (right) with Letofe Sound of Blue prin­ci­pal or­gan­iser Mon­toeli ‘Moleli.

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