The father of South African jazz, Hugh Masekela, has died at the aged 78 after battling with cancer.
Masekela, who was affectionately known as ‘Bra Hugh’, lost his battle with prostate cancer, for which he had been on treatment since 2008.
The family confirmed the news in a statement saying, "After a protracted and courageous battle with prostate cancer, he passed peacefully in Johannesburg, surrounded by his family".
Bra Hugh wore many hats as a trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and singer. His love for music started in Witbank. He began playing the piano at 14, but soon changed to a trumpet after watching a movie “Young Man with a Horn”. He got his first trumpet from anti-apartheid activist Father Trevor Huddleston.
In the 1950s his career grew and he worked with popular musicians of the day such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Kippie Moeketsi, Jonas Gwangwa, and Johnny Gertze. Bra Hugh used his music to bring awareness and fight against apartheid. It was one of the instruments used to bring political change because of his activism. In the 1960s he went to exile in England, and while there, he enrolled at the London Guildhall School of Music, later moving to the Manhattan School of Music in New York, USA.
His solo career spanned five decades, during which he released over 40 albums and worked with diverse artists such as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and the late Miriam Makeba. He received numerous awards throughout his life including an honorary Doctorate in Music from the University of York in 2014; a Doctor of Music from Rhodes University in 2015.
In 2010, President Jacob Zuma bestowed the National Order of Ikhamanga in Gold to Bra Hugh for his exceptional contribution to music and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
"His contribution to the struggle for liberation will never be forgotten. We wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to his family and peers in the arts and culture fraternity at large. May his soul rest in peace," Zuma said in a statement after hearing the news of his death.
By: Thulile Gama