African jazz legend Hugh Masekela dies aged 78

Hugh Masekela. Credit:Supplied

Anti-apartheid activist, Father Trevor Huddleston, helped Masekela to acquire a trumpet and ensured he received tuition, resulting in his rapidly joining South Africa's first youth orchestra, the Huddleston Jazz Band.

He left South Africa following a bloody attack on African protesters in Sharpeville to fight for South African freedom from the outside. Masekela was also responsible for the record, Bring Him Back Home which was considered one of the unofficial anthems of the anti-apartheid movement. In concerts, Masekela discussed the meaning of songs such as "Stimela (Coal Train)", about displaced workers in Johannesburg, and "Soweto Blues", about a 1976 massacre of black schoolchildren, which he often performed with Makeba. The son of a health-inspector father and social-worker mother, Hugh (as he became known) was raised mainly by his grandmother, who ran an illegal drinking house known as a shebeen.

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. He was a personal favourite of mine and ignited my love for jazz music.

She and Harry Belafonte ensured he enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music where he studied jazz. Masekela's debut album, released in 1963, was entitled Trumpet Africaine. "For many of us, he was our introduction to the world", the 40-year-old artist who plays for the Afro-jazz group iComplete based in Johannesburg, said.

He later founded the Botswana International School of Music (BISM) in Gaborone in 1985, which holds annual music workshops to date.

In 1990 Masekela returned home, following the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Mandela.

In 2003, he was featured in the documentary film Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony. As detailed so memorably in his autobiography "Still Grazing: The Musical Journey Of Hugh Masekela" (co-written with D Michael Cheers), Masekela's life was rich and wild - and sometimes hard and full of heartbreak.

"Even in recent years, "Bra Hugh" continued to fly the flag for South Africa in global festivals, and his home country including the performance at the Grammy Awards in 2013", Minister Mthethwa said. "His contribution to the struggle for liberation will never be forgotten", Zuma said in a statement.

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