Jazz legend Hugh Masekela dies at 78

Hugh Masekela. Credit:Supplied

THE University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) says it is saddened, following the news of the passing of world-renowned music legend and political struggle icon Dr Hugh Masekela. Towards the latter part of previous year, we got notification from his family about him suspending all engagements...because he wasn't too well.

Ramopolo Hugh Masekela was born in the coal-mining town of Witbank on April 4, 1939. He was in exile for 30 years. With the help of Trevor Huddleston and other friends, he was admitted into London's Guildhall School of Music and later moved to the United States where he studied classical trumpet at the Manhattan School of Music in NY. But the education he received as he became part of the city's flourishing jazz scene would prove to be even more instrumental.

Under the tutelage of Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, he was encouraged to develop his own unique style.

He performed at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, alongside Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, before releasing Grazing in the Grass in 1968, which reached number one on the pop and R&B charts.

Masekela's 1986 "Bring Him Back Home" song, written for Nelson Mandela, became an anthem of the 1980s anti-apartheid movement.

NY is a city to which he returned often, welcomed with proverbial open arms - whether on stage at Carnegie Hall or in Central Park.

He also interviewed him on Jazz on Joy on Joy FM.

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But Edmund dialled up his mighty forehand and hit straight back, and when he broke again to level the match, the momentum swung decisively in his favour.

"But seriously, I recommend laughing".

Masekela received a Grammy nomination for best world music album with his 2012 record "Jabulani" and appeared at a White House jazz gala in 2016.

During the weekend of US President Barack Obama's re-inauguration in 2013, he was honoured with the Keeper of the Flame award from the African American Churches in DC. He toured and played for charity regularly.

Masekela inspired generations of musicians in jazz and beyond and collaborated in recent years with South African house music DJ Black Coffee, who tweeted Tuesday: "I have no words".

In October, he cancelled a scheduled performance at the Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival in Rockville, Soweto to dedicate himself to battling the disease and called on all men to go for regular cancer check-ups.

"My biggest obsession is to show Africans and the world who the people of Africa really are", Hugh Masekela is quoted as saying on his official website. His music will continue to live on in our hearts as we remember him. A year later, he published his autobiography, Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela (co-authored with D. Michael Cheers).

Nadia Neophytou is a freelance entertainment correspondent for Eyewitness News based in NY.

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