All Africa Music Awards to pay tribute to jazz legend Hugh Masekela

Delia Watkins
January 25, 2018

But it was always propelled by a desire to create and love and live and, mostly, to tell the stories of his community in the truest possible way - just like every true folk musician of the world. In 1960 he moved to NY and enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music. After the Manhattan Brothers tour of South Africa in 1958, Masekela joined the orchestra of South Africa's first successful musical King Kong, written by Todd Matshikiza. The show received five Tony Award nominations before being made into a movie.

Sal Masekela, Masekela's son who is also a musician, wrote in a statement that it was "difficult to comprehend that this moment is real", recalling his father's performances in NY when he would "steal the hearts and souls of innocents with a musical storytelling all his own".

In our first conversation from 2011, which hasn't been aired before, Masekela speaks candidly about growing up during the rise of apartheid, and ponders what South Africa could have been if it hadn't crumbled under white authoritarian rule.

Last year, the University awarded him its highest honour, Doctor of Music (honoris causa), in recognition of Masekela's contribution to the music industry.

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He performed with Paul Simon on the 1987 Graceland Tour, along with Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Masekela mastered the trumpet after tutorial from the leader of the then Johannesburg "Native" Municipal Brass Band, Uncle Sauda, who taught him the rudiments of the instrument. A great musician and songwriter, he was also one of the wittiest people I've known. Hugh was largely raised by his grandmother who ran an illegal bar for miners. He was inspired to learn the trumpet after seeing Kirk Douglas play Bix Beiderbecke in the 1950 film Young Man with a Horn. At the time, he was attending St. Peter's, an Anglican prep school in the suburbs of Johannesburg, where his musical precociousness was matched only by his reputation for unruliness.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Presidency. "We just decided, like he likes to say, 'Let's call it a draw.' " The couple continued performing together until her death in 2008.

Masekela is survived by his wife, Elinam Cofie, whom he married in 1999 and for whom he penned the song, Ghana, his daughter, Pula Twala, and his son, Selema "Sal" Masekela, from his relationship with Haitian Jessie Marie Lapierre.

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