Hugh Masekela Wiki
Hugh Ramapolo Masekela was a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer. He has been described as “the father of South African jazz”. Masekela was known for his jazz compositions and for writing well-known anti-apartheid songs such as “Soweto Blues” and “Bring Him Back Home”.
Born: April 4, 1939, Witbank
Died: January 23, 2018, Johannesburg, South Africa
Genres: Jazz; mbaqanga
Instruments: Trumpet; flugelhorn; trombone; cornet; vocals
Spouse: Elinam Cofie (m. 1999–2018), Chris Calloway (m. 1968–1968), Miriam Makeba (m. 1964–1966)
Hugh Masekela Biography
Hugh Masekela was born on 4 April 1939 and died on 23, January 2018. Masekela was born in KwaGuqa Township, Witbank, South Africa to Thomas Selena Masekela, who was a health inspector and sculptor and his wife, Pauline Bowers Masekela, a social worker.
As a child, he began singing and playing piano and was largely raised by his grandmother, who ran an illegal bar for miners.
At the age of 14, after seeing the film Young Man with a Horn (in which Kirk Douglas plays a character modelled on American jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke), Masekela took up playing the trumpet.
His first trumpet was bought for him from a local music store by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, the anti-apartheid chaplain at St. Peter’s Secondary School now known as St. Martin’s School (Rosettenville).
Huddleston asked the leader of the then Johannesburg “Native” Municipal Brass Band, Uncle Sauda, to teach Masekela the rudiments of trumpet playing.
Masekela quickly mastered the instrument. Soon, some of his schoolmates also became interested in playing instruments, leading to the formation of the Huddleston Jazz Band, South Africa’s first youth orchestra.
When Louis Armstrong heard of this band from his friend Huddleston he sent one of his own trumpets as a gift for Hugh. By 1956, after leading other ensembles, Masekela joined Alfred Herbert’s African Jazz Revue.
From 1954, Masekela played music that closely reflected his life experience. The agony, conflict, and exploitation South Africa faced during the 1950s and 1960s inspired and influenced him to make music and also spread political change.
He was an artist who in his music vividly portrayed the struggles and sorrows, as well as the joys and passions of his country. His music protested about apartheid, slavery, government; the hardships individuals were living. Masekela reached a large population that also felt oppressed due to the country’s situation.
Following a Manhattan Brothers tour of South Africa in 1958, Masekela wound up in the orchestra of the musical King Kong, written by Todd Matshikiza.
King Kong was South Africa’s first blockbuster theatrical success, touring the country for a sold-out year with Miriam Makeba and the Manhattan Brothers’ Nathan Mdledle in the lead. The musical later went to London’s West End for two years.
Masekela was involved in several social initiatives, and served as a director on the board of the Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization that provides a daily meal to students of township schools in Soweto.
Personal life and death
From 1964 to 1966 he was married to singer and activist Miriam Makeba. He had subsequent marriages to Chris Calloway (daughter of Cab Calloway), Jabu Mbatha, and Elinam Cofie.
He was the father of American television host Sal Masekela. Poet, educator, and activist Barbara Masekela is his younger sister.
Masekela died in Johannesburg on the early morning of 23 January 2018 from prostate cancer, aged 78.