Honouring Hugh Masekela at heritage festival

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Msaki will be bringing her best to pay homage to the legends who came before her. Photo: Supplied
Msaki will be bringing her best to pay homage to the legends who came before her. Photo: Supplied


The great Hugh Masekela, who died on 23 January 2018, left a long-lasting legacy for many artists who would succeed him.

Born in April of 1939, Masekela was exposed to music throughout his childhood, learning to play the piano, and then finally acquiring a trumpet, which he was inspired to play through the movie, Young Man with a Horn.

With fight in his spirit, cultivated from his father who was an anti-apartheid activist, Masekela fought through music, and soon gained traction as a protest artist and critically acclaimed jazz and soul musician.

After the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, Masekela was assisted by Father Trevor Huddleston and other international friends to study in America. In 1961 he was exiled and went to London to further his studies. This gave him the extraordinary opportunity to create music from a place that was a culmination of the places where he had lived.

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With a soothing voice that inspired millions, Masekela’s legacy survives musical projects such as Sarafina and King Kong. Though he lost his battle with prostate cancer in 2018, his spirit lives on through the few who are trying to uphold his memory.

Assupol and the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation celebrate Bra Hugh’s cultural legacy on the fourth anniversary of his passing.

This year, the heritage festival will be paying tribute to late jazz musician Sibongile Khumalo. The world-renowned opera singer and jazz genius had a career that spanned over 30 years and, in fact, had the opportunity to work with Hugh Masekela. Which definitely makes this tribute one to watch.

This year’s festival will include star-studded performers such as Msaki, Berita, Mandisi Dyantyis and Muneyi, who will be bringing their best to pay homage to the legends who came before them.

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Fetch your Life vocalist, Msaki, opened up to City Press about her memory of Masekela in preparation for the festival, saying: 

I met Bra Hugh very late in his life, but I have been knowing him vicariously through some of my friends, such as Tresor and Thandiswa Mazwai. When I went to New York, I went to visit the Abyssinian Baptist Church with my aunt, who was working in the city at the time.

“She mentioned to them that she had a visitor with her, who was a musician from South Africa. They didn’t need to know if I was good, they didn’t need to know who I was, they just heard ‘a musician from South Africa’ and the pastor, the deacon, the church choir and the community came to deposit the most amount of love that I’ve ever received for just geographically sharing a location with a legendary musician like Hugh Masekela.”

Neo-soul and jazz musician Berita, whose given name is Gugulethu Khumalo, shared her excitement for the festival and recalled her time working with Masekela: 

I was very fortunate to collaborate with Bra Hugh Masekela, one of a few in my generation who had that opportunity. Both as a human being and, most importantly, as a music legend, he inspired me.

“He advised me to always work on my craft, instructing that I needed to spend at least an hour a day on my music, regardless of the circumstances. This advice has helped me keep encouraged and working on my music even in trying and uncertain times.”

After the release of her first project, Thandolwethu, the young musician has been serenading audiences and has even won awards, such as in the Metro FM Music Awards for best African pop album in 2013, Wawela Music Awards songwriter of the year in 2014, and in the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards in 2016 and 2019.

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This brilliant musician packs a punch in her performances, which never fail to pull at our heartstrings. “I’m really excited to honour Bra Hugh in this way. You can expect a powerful soulful experience. I’m definitely bringing some of my golden oldies back, and I’ll be performing material from my catalogue, such as Thandolwethu and Ndicel’ikiss.”

Although these great legends can never come back, honouring their contribution to music and the struggle is an amazing way to keep their legacy alive.

Berita adds to the conversation, saying:

This festival is an opportunity to celebrate a renaissance man. One who loved heritage and people. His rich music is his legacy, and we are keeping it alive.

“My biggest obsession is to show Africans, and the world, who the people of Africa really are,” Masekela once said.

The heritage festival, is giving the world the opportunity to experience that.

Hosted by actor and writer Kagiso Lediga, the festival will be held on at 8pm on January 23. Find out more here.


Janice Phiri  

Culture Writer

+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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