×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hugh Masekela, South African Jazz Musician and Activist, Dies at 78

Hugh Masekela, South African jazz musician and political activist, died Jan. 23 in Johannesburg, South Africa of prostate cancer. He was 78.

Masekela was a trumpeter, flugelhornist, composer, and singer. He played the trumpet in the Huddleston Jazz Band which showcased his signature Afro-jazz sound. He also performed in the 1959 musical “King Kong” written by Todd Matshikiza. He then joined South African group the Jazz Epistles with members Kippie Moeketsi, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Jonas Gwangwa.

When Masekela moved to Los Angles in the 1960s, he pursued a solo career. He performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 alongside Otis Redding, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, and Janis Joplin. Masekela’s song “Grazin’ in the Grass” hit number one on the American pop charts. His released over 40 albums during his five-decade career, and worked with artists such as Harry Belafonte, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, and Stevie Wonder.

Born in Witbank, South Africa, Masekela became an advocate for equal rights at 14. In 1960, he was exiled from South Africa and arrived in New York to enroll at the Manhattan School of Music. He released he debut album titled “Trumpet Africaine” in 1963. Masekela created the anti-apartheid anthem “Bring Home Nelson Mandela” before returning to South Africa. In 2010, South African President Jacob Zuma awarded him with the highest order in South Africa: The Order of Ikhamanga.

Masekela’s son Selema, a film and TV producer, journalist and musician, remembered his father as a man of deep convictions.

“As a product of the meticulously designed apartheid regime of 20th century South Africa, my father’s life was the definition of activism and resistance,” he said. “Despite the open arms of many countries, for 30 years he refused to take citizenship anywhere else on this earth. His belief too strong that the pure evil of a systematic racist oppression could and would be crushed. …He carried a deep-seeded belief in justice, freedom and equality for all peoples to the very end.”

In addition to Selema, Masekela is survived by his daughter, Pula Twala, and two sisters.

More Music

  • Peter Bjorn and John -Björn Yttling

    As Peter Björn & John Celebrates 20 Years, the Band Returns to its 'Darker' Roots

    A trifecta of pure energy hit the stage at the Teragram Ballroom in Downtown Los Angeles Saturday night as Peter Björn & John performed the second-to-last stop of a 2018 tour. Promoting their new album “Darker Days,” which dropped October 19, the band went back to basics as a three-piece for this outing (drummer John [...]

  • Adam Levine Cardi B

    Maroon 5 and How the Super Bowl Halftime Show Became Music's Least Wanted Gig

    Who would have thought that the Super Bowl Halftime show, an American institution watched by more than 100 million people, would become the least wanted gig in music? But thanks to the ongoing controversy concerning the NFL’s stance on a player’s right to protest, brought to the forefront by football’s top conscientious objector Colin Kaepernick, [...]

  • Mary Poppins 1964

    P.L. Travers' Efforts to Adapt 'Mary Poppins' for Film, TV Were Often Less Than Jolly

    Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” a sequel decades in the making, opens Dec. 19. Even before the 1964 original, Hollywood made several attempts to adapt P.L. Travers’ books, with Samuel Goldwyn and Katharine Hepburn among those involved in the chase. But aside from a one-hour 1949 CBS television version, they all hit a dead-end. The first [...]

  • Kanye West

    Kanye West Accuses Drake of 'Threatening' His Family in Epic Twitter Binge

    Kanye West re-ignited his feud with Drake on Thursday night, accusing the rapper of “threatening” his family in a dozens-long Twitter binge on Thursday night. The latest installment of the saga between the former friends — which flared up most dramatically back in May when Pusha T revealed that Drake has a son with model [...]

  • Kacey Musgraves Cardi B Janelle Monae

    The Best Albums of 2018

    Even by recent standards, these are times that try human souls. And not surprisingly, that was reflected in the music of 2018: Whether metaphorically responding to the political realities of America (“Black Panther), mimicking the ADD nature of modern culture (Terra Whack) or simply providing a distraction, however brief, from too much reality (take your [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content