By Zuko Komisa
South African jazz legend Hugh Ramopolo Masekela has died, aged 78. His family issued a statement on Tuesday to confirm the news.
Bra Hugh Masekela lost his battle with prostate cancer, for which he had been treated since 2008. A world-renowned flugelhornist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, singer and defiant political voice. Masekela was born on 4 April 1939 in Witbank. The jazz veteran underwent eye surgery in March 2016 after the cancer spread and had to go into theatre again in September 2016 after another tumor was discovered.
He will be remembered for his love for music which was sparked by Father Trevor Huddleston, at the age of 14, who provided Masekela him with a trumpet and, soon after, the Huddleston Jazz Band was formed. In 1997 Hugh Masekela he was one of the first presenters to join Kaya 959 he was the pioneers of jazz music in South Africa whose talent was recognized and honored here at home and internationally over many years.
Masekela joined up with Dollar Brand (later known as Abdullah Ibrahim), Kippie Moeketsi, Jonas Gwangwa and alternately Early Mabuza or Makaya Ntshoko on drums, to form The Jazz Epistles, who regularly performed at the Odin Theatre in Sophiatown.
President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday: ” The nation mourns one its most recognizable signature talent in the person of Bra Hugh Masekela. It is an immeasurable loss to the music industry and to the country at large. His contribution to the struggle for liberation will never be forgotten. We wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to his family and peers in the arts and culture fraternity at large. May his soul rest in peace,”
In 1959, Masekela joined the cast of Todd Matshikiza’s “all-African jazz opera” King Kong. which also helped launch the career of Miriam Makeba, they got married in 1964, but the couple divorced in 1966. While in the states he became friends with musician and political activist Harry Belafonte, and his music increasingly began reflecting the harsh realities of repression and discrimination back home.
Bra Hugh 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.
Lala Ngoxolo Bra Hugh Masekela