HomeFront pageHugh Masekela, South African Jazz Musician and Activist, Dies at 78

Hugh Masekela, South African Jazz Musician and Activist, Dies at 78

Hugh Masekela, South African Jazz Musician and Activist, Dies at 78

Jazz legend Hugh Masekela first picked up a trumpet in the 1950s: a time when the colour of his skin meant he was no more than a second-class citizen in his own country, South Africa.

Over the following decades, he would become known across the world for both his music and his role as an anti-apartheid activist.

Indeed, songs like Soweto Blues would provide the soundtrack of the movement.

By the time of his death at the age of 78 – almost 30 years after the fall of white minority rule – he was revered as South Africa’s Father of Jazz.

Inspiration

Ramapolo Hugh Masekela was born on 4 April 1939 in KwaGuqa township, 100km (60 miles) east of the capital, Pretoria, part of a musical household.

“You know, everybody had a gramophone,” he recalled. “My uncle, he had the greatest voice so he sang along with all the records – Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong.”

Masekela began singing and playing the piano at an early age, it would be a Hollywood film about American jazz musicians which would inspire him to pick up the trumpet, aged just 14.

His first trumpet was given to him by British anti-apartheid activist Trevor Huddleston, a teacher at St Peter’s Secondary School in South Africa who would later become an archbishop.

As Masekela would tell South Africa’s TimesLive news website in 2011: “One small gesture can change a life. “

BBC News

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