Hugh Masekela, Anti-Apartheid Activist & Father Of South African Jazz, Dies At 78

first_imgToday, the music world is saddened by the news that Hugh Masekela, the world-renowned South African trumpet plater, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, singer, and anti-apartheid revolutionary activist, has passed away at the age of 78 after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer. Widely referred to as the “father of South African jazz,” Masekela was extremely prolific in his output throughout his more than 60-year career. He recorded more than 40 solo albums with an array of artists from across the genre spectrum and across the world; from Paul Simon to Harry Belafonte. He was also nominated for a “Best Contemporary Pop Performance – Instrumental” GRAMMY Award in 1968 for Grazin’ in the Grass.Below, watch Masekela perform “Grazing In The Grass” at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa courtesy of YouTube user EdBlackmail:In addition to his numerous jazz works, he is revered for writing well-known anti-apartheid songs including “Soweto Blues” and “Bring Him Back Home” a song written about Nelson Mandela while he was serving time in prison. In 1962, Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island as a as a political dissident, where he would begin his 27 years of confinement. He was a great fan of Hugh Masekela’s music, and on Masekela’s birthday in 1985, smuggled out a letter to him expressing his good wishes. Hugh was inspired to write “Bring Him Back Home” in response to Mandela’s letter.In a 2014 interview with NPR, Masekela explained, “Mandela was the symbol. He was the voice of all those people. They were a whole gang of them – like, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu and, like, all those people who came and brought us the direction to get out of our chains.” Many historians mark this exchange as the point where Masekela truly evolved into an activist. Of course, as we know now, Mandela was eventually freed, and became the country’s first black head of state in their first fully-representative democratic election in 1994, the final nail in the coffin for apartheid.Below, you can watch Masekela play “Bring Him Back Home” with Paul Simon as part of Simon’s “Graceland – The African Concert” in Zimbabwe (1987) via YouTube user John Hatzis:Rest in peace, Hugh! Thank you for helping make the world a better, more tolerant place.last_img read more