HANDED OVER his first trumpet at the age of 14 by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, the anti-apartheid chaplain at St. Peter's Secondary School, Dr Hugh Ramapolo Masekela is no more.
This was confirmed by the family who said he had ‘passed peacefully’ after a courageous fight with prostate cancer.
In 2008, he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer and from then on, he made it his duty to make a call to everymen to go for check-ups.
Bra Hugh as he was celebrated globally succumbed to illness last year having cancelled shows throughout the world. And yes, the world became worried -unbeknown that today we shall be writing his epithet.
Masekela gained global recognition with his distinctive Afro-Jazz sound and hits such as Soweto Blues.
The 1977 song became synonymous with the anti-apartheid movement.
Born in Witbank in 1939 at Kwa-Guqa Township, in 1960, aged 21, he left South Africa to begin what would be 30 years in exile from the land of his birth.
Under the tutelage of Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, he was encouraged to develop his own unique style and shared stages with the likes of Paul Simon, Dollar Brand (later known as Abdullah Ibrahim,) Kippie Moeketsi, Femi Kuti and other top stars in his league, including the likes SA’s DJ Oskido, Thandiswa Mazwai and others.
Bra Hugh had a rich and an illustrious career that everyone or every aspiring trumpeter would gain a lot from.
Messages of condolences are pouring from the republic of SA President, ministers, and colleagues within the music fraternity to ordinary folks who loved his art work.
President Jacob Zuma said Masekela’s death was “an immeasurable loss to the music industry and to the country at large”.
He continued: “His contribution to the struggle for liberation will never be forgotten.”
MEC for arts and culture in GP Faith Mazibuko says: “South Africa and the country’s creative industry continues to suffer great losses and the melody of bra Hugh is now no more. He was the epitome of a legend, as his music revolutionized our nation’s musical landscape.
“With his extraordinary musical talent, he broke barriers and inspired millions of people around the world with his one of a kind gift for telling tales of the African spirit and expertise through sound. Masekela has left behind a catalogue of timeless music that will forever be a voice of the South African narrative.
“Not only has South Africa, but the world lost one of the greatest musicians of all time. On behalf of the Gauteng Provincial Government and its people we wish to extend our deepest and sincerest condolences to the Masekela family, the music industry and those who loved him and his music. May his soul rest in eternal peace”.
Some of his quotes include:” I’m travelling more than ever. I don’t have the answer as to why, but the demand seems to have grown as I’ve got older.”
I’m honoured for having had an audience with you from the days of Martell Cognac launch, when he did a duet with DJ Oskido in Sandton to his annual Assupol heritage music fest held in Soweto.
Known for speaking his mind, Bra Hugh ruffled some feathers when he told South African women that she would not take a picture with anyone who does not feature an original hair.
The Grammy Award winner Masekela, was involved in several social initiatives, and served as a director on the board of the Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization that provides a daily meal to students of township schools in Soweto.
His song ‘Soweto Blues’ was sung by his former wife, the late umama Mirriam Makeba.
His honours reads as follows:
- Rhodes University: Doctor of Music (honoris causa), 2015
- University of York Honorary Doctorate in Music 2014
- Order of Ikhamanga: 2010 South African National Orders Ceremony, 27 April 2010.
- Ghana Music Awards: 2007 African Music Legend award
- 2005 Channel O Music Video Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2002 BBC Radio Jazz Awards: International Award of the Year
- Nominated for Broadway’s 1988 Tony Award for Best Score (Musical), with music and lyrics collaborator Mbongeni Ngema, for Sarafina!
Details for his memorial and funeral services will be released by family.
Rest In Peace Ramapolo…