Tribute to Hugh Masekela

Tuesday, 30 January 2018
R.I.PHugh Masekela R.I.PHugh Masekela

Local jazz music fraternity this week thronged social media with messages expressing their heartfelt condolences following the death of South African Jazz icon Hugh Masekela who died at age 78 after succumbing to prostate cancer.

Having settled in Botswana during exile in 1980 and stayed in the landlocked country for more than four years, Masekela has influenced the growth of many local music makers, promoters and fans. 

Among other things Masekela did in Botswana was establishing a music school he named international school of music based in Extension 10 in Gaborone.

Masekela left Botswana in 1985 with a local live band fearing for his life after the South African Defence Force (SADF) raided Gaborone looking for South Africans in exiles. The band he left with for London included the likes of John Selolwane, Banjo Mosele and Aubri Woki.

His music in Botswana often entertained Botswana audiences and was felt through his soothing voice and an incredible sound of a trumpet. The one show that left many in awe and asking for endless encores was the last that the legend held in Botswana Craft where he performed alongside Socca Moruakgomo in 2014.

Local music promoter Zenzele Hirschfield who worked alongside the music legend in most of the concerts and showcases locally has described the popular trumpeter as a man of integrity, reliability and poise.

“I met Bra Hugh when I was only 20 years and at the time I was clueless over most of the music challenges promoters face. He greatly influenced the direction I took regarding music promoting,” she said. Hirschfield says that the South African trumpeter was very patient when facilitating and teaching music concepts.

“He believed in humankind and culture above all things. Bra Hugh believed we were all beautiful and unique in our own way that is why he would emphasise the use of no beauty modifiers,” said Hirschfield. She added that Masekela believed Botswana culture was opulent and beautiful hence Batswana musicians being obliged to make it shine through music.

Further, Hirschfield explained that Masekela’s level of perseverance when seeking a certain project to be delivered was one trait all local musicians had to develop to triumph to the same success he achieved. “He was a strong man and he would go on and pursue an unnerving task and I believe that is what set him apart from the rest,” added Hirschfield.

Masekela touched the hearts of many across Africa when he embarked on journey he called “Africa Unite” where he travelled to Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) in 1973. He has released and issued a total number of 40 albums with his final one named “No boarders” which was released in 2016.

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