Hugh’s Complete Aural Workout
2 May 2012
Photograph by Sizwe Ndingane
Hugh Masekela is steadfast in his mission and life’s obsession with heritage restoration and his latest venture presented itself when he least expected it. But he believes it is one whose image refutes what apartheid stood for and with a lot of socio political positiveness.
And it would seem Bra Hugh has a knack for coming up with projects that defy socio-political expectations. Six years ago, he signed Corlea Botha (now doing her native Afrikaans music) to his now defunct Chissa records, after spotting her as the only white girl among hopefuls at the Surf Miriam Makeba Tribute to Dolly Rathebe auditions. on the album Shades of the Rainbow, Bra Hugh has Botha (from Benoni) tackling Afro-pop and funk, singing in Zulu and Shona, and doing songs such as Take Me to Soweto with charm.
This time he’s gathered a group of Danish girls and a quartet of local male voices to give new interpretations to South African and Scandinavian folk songs.
At his recording studio, House of Masekela, in Boschkop, Pretoria, opened in 2010, he and his Danish counterparts opened up about this special venture. And it turns out the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had a hand in its conception.
His 80th birthday last year, which was marred by the Dalai Lama being denied a visa by the SA government to attend the celebration, was the catalyst. With the Dalai Lama being present via Skype, the party did go on and among the big names invited to perform was conductor Rikke Forchhammer and her group of girls, The Baobab Singers, from Denmark.
Bra Hugh was supposed to be there, but couldn’t make it. Flipping through the channels at home he came across the broadcast of the Tutu festivity and saw the Danish girls singing SA folk songs with Forchhammer at the helm.
The Baobab Singers have toured SA five times doing SA songs. Their appeal is in how they render the songs, respect them by approaching them simply and sincerely, without trying too hard.
“We originally started with Tanzanian music because I lived in Tanzania as a child,” says Forchhammer. “I studied musicology and specialised in African choral music and have always been drawn to SA music because of its structure and soul.”
Bra Hugh was taken in by their knowledge of SA music.
“What knocked me out was seeing these Danish people consumed in our heritage, and we’re looking for Denmark,” he says. “With music being my first language, I feel they live in a world I’m obsessed with, which is heritage restoration. So when I heard them my first instinct was, ‘how am I going to get hold of them?’”
Like something that was meant to happen, Bra Hugh got an e-mail from Forchhammer proposing a possible collaboration. Bra Hugh brought with him a quartet of male singers from Voslorus, Complete, who are simply astounding. They combine their influence of Boys II Men, The Manhattan Brothers, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and gospel music into their own musical ritual. The soul in their raw voices does more than put a tingle in your spine. And with the coaching they get from Masekela, they have moulded their sound to produce immaculate and heartfelt harmonies with the precision equal to that of formal training.
I first saw them in the Masekela and James Ngcobo theatre production, Songs of Migration, which, as the name explains, is about the heritage of migrant songs.
Recently they featured in another theatre showcase, in choreographer and dancer Gregory Maqoma’s masterpiece, Exit/Exist, in which they soulfully remixed some of Simphiwe Dana’s music.
“I was introduced to them through a friend of mine, Sanza, who was one of the original cast members of King Kong, the musical in 1961. He’s originally from Pimville, Soweto, but has been living in the UK for 48 to 49 years now. But he bought a house in Randburg 10 years ago and someone from his church in England told him about this group, Complete. He found them and kept calling me for two years to listen to them. I went to his house one day and they were there.
“When you look at them you don’t think they can sing, because they look like thugs. But when they opened their mouths, my jaw fell to my knees. In my profession, you don’t sign a group after one song so I had them sing five songs and when they were done, I told Sanza: ‘Lock the door, these boys are not going anywhere’,” recalls Bra Hugh.
From then on they started working on the musical, Songs of Migration. Bra Hugh features Complete on his new recording which should release in the next few weeks and “they make us look good,” he says. But they have their own album in the pipeline.
With the 10-day recording with The Baobab Singers and Complete at his studio, Masekela wanted to capture the mood of the two groups and he features on the trumpet occasionally with the likes of Fana Zulu on the piano.
This combo is something that has never been heard before. And as he concludes, Bra Hugh says: “Spiritually I feel like this is something that wanted to happen, but was looking for its players.
“The world will want to see this.”
Jazz Stars Enlist Star Reinforcements To Take On Rap
1 May 2012
Photograph by Thos Robinson
UNITED NATIONS: Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Hugh Masekela starred at the finale concert for the first International Jazz Day in New York on Monday.
The music luminaries were joined by Hollywood giants including Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Robert de Niro for the multinational attempt at the UN headquarters to put jazz back on a global par with rap and rock.
“What it has communicated to the world is incredible. It’s the only language that is spoken by everyone all over the world,” said South African trumpet player Masekela backstage at the gala concert which also featured Wynton Marsalis, Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett, 91-year-old Cuban percussionist Candido Camero and Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang.
International Jazz Day formally started on Friday in Paris where many of the stars also performed. But the event has also seen special concerts in New Orleans and more than 30 other major cities around the world.
Marsalis, whose 78-year-old pianist father Ellis Marsalis played in New Orleans on Monday morning, said the event allowed musicians to come together as a community. “Jazz musicians are everywhere. We all know each other.”Lang Lang, who has made his name playing with the Vienna Philarmonic and other major global orchestras, said he wanted to help create a “new generation of jazz enthusiasts””For me, my focus is on classic, but I’m a big fan of Herbie Hancock,” said the Chinese classical star.
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UNESCO and Herbie Hancock Announce the First Annual International Jazz Day
10 April 2012
E Jazz News
UNESCO AND HERBIE HANCOCK ANNOUNCE THE FIRST ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL JAZZ DAY ON APRIL 30TH FEATURING ALL-STAR CONCERTS IN PARIS, NEW ORLEANS AND NEW YORK
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock will collaborate with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz to celebrate and recognize jazz music as a universal language of freedom
March 21st, 2012. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock are pleased to announce International Jazz Day to be held April 30th of every year. In partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the initiative– Hancock’s first major program introduced as a Goodwill Ambassador–will encourage and highlight intercultural dialogue and understanding through America’s greatest contribution to the world of music. International Jazz Day will foster and stimulate the teaching of jazz education with a particular emphasis placed on children from disadvantaged communities in classrooms around the world and will be offered to all 195 member states of UNESCO.
Said UNESCO Director-General Bokova, “The designation of International Jazz Day is intended to bring together communities, schools and other groups the world over to celebrate and learn more about the art of jazz, its roots and its impact, and to highlight its important role as a means of communication that transcends differences”.
In an address to UNESCO officials, Herbie Hancock said, “Please take a moment and envision one day every year where jazz is celebrated, studied, and performed around the world for 24 hours straight. A collaboration among jazz icons, scholars, composers, musicians, dancers, writers, and thinkers who embrace the beauty, spirit, and principles of jazz, all of them freely sharing experiences and performances in our big cities and in our small towns, all across our seven continents.” He went on to say, “Music has always served as a bridge between different cultures; and no musical art form is more effective as a diplomatic tool than jazz.”
In anticipation of April 30th International Jazz Day, the celebration will kick-off on April 27th at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris with a daylong series of jazz education programs and performances. An evening concert will feature Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Marcus Miller, Hugh Masekela, Lionel Loueke, Tania Maria, Barbara Hendricks, Gerald Clayton, Terri Lyne Carrington, John Beasley, China Moses, Ben Williams, and Antonio Hart, and others to be announced. The daytime events will include master classes, roundtable discussions, improvisational workshops, and various other activities.
International Jazz Day will be celebrated by millions worldwide on Monday, April 30th and will begin with a sunrise concert in New Orleans’ Congo Square, the birthplace of jazz. The event will feature a number of jazz luminaries along with Hancock including Dianne Reeves, New Orleans natives Terence Blanchard, Ellis Marsalis, Treme Brass Band, Dr. Michael White, Kermit Ruffins, Bill Summers, and others.
The world-wide programs and events will conclude in New York City at the United Nations General Assembly Hall with an historic sunset concert certain to be one of the most heralded jazz celebrations of all time, with confirmed artists including Richard Bona (Cameroon), Dee Dee Bridgewater, Danilo Perez, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath, Zakir Hussain (India), Angelique Kidjo (Benin), Lang Lang (China), Romero Lubambo (Brazil), Shankar Mahadevan (India), Wynton Marsalis, Hugh Masekela (South Africa), Christian McBride, Dianne Reeves, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Hiromi Uehara (Japan) and others to be announced. George Duke will serve as Musical Director. Confirmed Co-Hosts include Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Quincy Jones.
The concert from the United Nations will be streamed live worldwide via the United Nations and UNESCO websites, and will also be post-broadcast on United Nations Radio.
Tom Carter, President of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, said, “The Institute is pleased to be a partner with UNESCO in presenting educational programs and performances as a part of International Jazz Day. For more than a century, jazz has helped soothe and uplift the souls of millions of people in all corners of the globe. It stands for freedom and democracy, particularly for the disenfranchised and brings people of different cultures, religions, and nationalities together.”
The objectives of International Jazz Day are to:
• Encourage exchange and understanding between cultures and employ these means to enhance tolerance;
• Offer effective tools at international, regional, sub-regional and national levels to foster intercultural dialogue;
• Raise public awareness about the role jazz music plays to help spread the universal values of UNESCO’s mandate;
• Promote intercultural dialogue towards the eradication of racial tensions and gender inequality and to reinforce the role of youth for social change;
• Recognize jazz music as a universal language of freedom;
• Promote social progress with a special focus on developing countries utilizing new technologies and communications tools such as social networks;
• Contribute to UNESCO’s initiatives to promote mutual understanding among cultures, with a focus on education of young people in marginalized communities.
The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz will work with UNESCO and its 195 various field offices, national commissions, UNESCO networks, UNESCO Associated Schools, universities and institutes, public radio and public television, as well as NGOs. Additionally, libraries, schools, performing arts centers, artists and arts organizations of all disciplines throughout the world will be encouraged to celebrate the day through presentations, concerts, and other jazz-focused activities. UNESCO will be sending recommendations for events, programs and support materials to its member countries and efforts are underway to raise funds for activities in developing countries where resources are limited. For example, in Brazil the Ministry of Culture will organize a nationwide program celebrating the history of jazz and its contribution to peace in all of its cultural centers; it is hoped that this will eventually be integrated into Brazil’s national educational curriculum. In Algeria, free jazz concerts will take place featuring groups from all over the country as well as conferences promoting “intercultural exchanges between jazz music and Maghreb music”; Russia will host various activities including concerts, photo exhibitions, lectures, virtual magazines and radio programs, while in Belgium the Conservatory of Jazz and Pop will organize outdoor daytime flash mobs/ concerts with Jazz students in bookstores, the Academy of Fine Arts and more. These are just some of the many local events that will be taking place around the world.
For more information about International Jazz Day, please visit the website at:
10 April 2012
SHOW: Tribute To Miriam Makeba – Cape Town International Jazz Festival - At the press conference ahead of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Hugh Masekela waxed poetic about his one-time wife Miriam Makeba.
ARTISTS: Hugh Masekela, Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa Mazwai, Zolani Mahola
VENUE: Cape Town International Convention Centre
Masekela talked about Makeba’s altruistic efforts dedicated to uplifting the African continent.
Most of this information was unsolicited from the press gallery, but perhaps Masekela felt the need to express Makeba’s influence on this platform as festival revellers might – at the show –have imbibed the nectar of the gods to a degree that made them unable to appreciate the message.
There was impatience in the ranks of partygoers bent on having a good time before the show. Any tribute to Makeba comes with the inherent assumption that there will be jiving amid nostalgic choruses.
The discerning music listener’s curiosity was piqued when the gig was announced. How would the distinct voices of Thandiswa Mazwai and Zolani Mahola (Freshlyground) blend together with that Vusi Mahlasela?
Masekela did not waste any time getting the crowd warmed up with one of his jive hits. In between his own two personal songs he peppered the audience with tidbits about Makeba’s life.
Then he introduced Mahola, Mazwai, and Mahlasela.
Mahlasela started off strumming When You Come Back with backing vocals from Mazwai and Mahola. Mahlasela then turn to Nakupenda Africa, which had revellers on their toes – Sophiatown-swing style.
Mazwai then had a chance to seize centre stage with a resounding performance of Ingoma, which had the audience jumping up and down, toi toi style, while Masekela’s trumpet added energy. Mazwai flexed her vocal chords and found new range during this performance.
Mahola started off the Makeba tribute with Meet Me At The River, sung in her distinct voice.
Mahlasela then tackled the Pata Pata with great voice alteration and control. But it was Mazwai, with African Sunset, who stole the show with a impassioned performance, and when she was done and returned to her backing vocal post, Masekela beckoned her to the front for more.
Bra Hugh blows in at 73
5 April 2012
Mail and Guardian
Photograph by Jonx Pillemer
It has been a huge week for Hugh Masekela. Not only did he celebrate his 73rd birthday, but fresh from his performance at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, he launched a new album and a record label.
The album, Friends, which launched on Sunday at the Mahogany Room in Cape Town, is a four-CD box set featuring Masekela and American pianist Larry Willis. It is a collection of 40 American jazz standards reinterpreted by the two musicians, whose friendship dates back more than 50 years, hence the title. Willis was in the country for the launch.
The quiet intimacy of the launch was in stark contrast to Masekela's jiving performance at the jazz festival the previous night, where he was joined by Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa Mazwai and Zolani Mahola, playing to thousands in a special tribute to the late Miriam Makeba.
As people squeezed into the Mahogany Room, which at capacity seats 50, Masekela said: "It might be a small premiere, but it feels like a helluva one."
He is a great storyteller and, from the start, enthralled the crowd with gems of detail. "We met in 1961 at the Manhattan School of music. I had just turned 21. We both loved music and were drawn to each other. Larry was an opera singer and he was dressed like George Washington. I looked at him and asked: "Man, what are you doing?!" Masekela found out that Willis played piano and they spent afternoons in the Bronx performing together.
"We've recorded together over the years. But we haven't managed to get rid of each other," he said, followed by deep laughter.
"We're going to do the compositions that affected our lives," he said, and with that, the two began a journey that delved into their history. The set consisted of Hi-Fly by Randy Weston, Easy Living made famous by Billie Holiday, Fats Waller's Until the Real Thing Comes Along and Duke Ellington's Come Sunday. Each song told a new story. About soul group the Stylistics' song You Make Me Feel Brand New, Masekela said: "I said to Larry, 'It's an old R'n'B song', but he said, 'We're going to play it because it's pretty.'"
He continued: "The most unforgettable person in the world of music, aside from Miriam Makeba, is a man who never finished a paragraph without mentioning New Orleans. If it weren't for him, we'd all be wearing white wigs," and he headed into When It's Sleepy Time Down South by Louis Armstrong.
Almost like jazz
The set ended with Masekela singing one of his favourite songs, Hoagy Carmichael's 1929 hit Rockin' Chair.
When Masekela first recorded in the United States, music critic Leonard Feather said: "Hugh Masekela can't play jazz". "I told Miles Davis this and he said: "As long as Feather spells your name right, don't give a shit about anything else," he said. The album Almost like being in jazz, which featured Willis, was Masekela's response.
Last year, Rashid Lombard, the chief executive of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, organised for Willis to perform at the festival. This coincided with Masekela's nephew, Pius Mokgokong, building a studio on his farm in Pretoria and hence Friends was recorded there. Willis made six trips to the country to record the album.
Mokgokong initially built the studio at his home to practise music, but then decided to create a professional studio. When Masekela first visited it in 2010, he said: "Uncle, I'm going to dedicate this thing to you." The album is the first to be released through the new record label, House of Masekela, of which Mokgokong is executive producer.
"Jazz artists die poor. We want to invest money in our musicians and make sure they benefit from their art," Mokgokong said.
Friends is available countrywide and a Johannesburg launch of the album will be announced soon.
For sales information please contact
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Hugh and Sal Masekela
4 April 2012
There is a lot we know about Hugh Masekela’s story – about exile, about excess, about love, about jazz – much of which has been told through his excellent biography Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela. But there is still much more to be heard and understood, which is why I am looking forward to seeing the film Alekesam debut at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival.
It’s about the respected musician and how his exile from South Africa for over 30 years as a result of Apartheid impacted his relationship with his son, Selema Mabena Masekela, who we have come to know on TV as ‘Sal’. Masekela’s time in America saw him earn a number one hit with Grazin’ In The Grass in 1968, and Sal was born a few years later in 1971. Masekela left America – and Sal – to return to South Africa, where he would continue to play an important role in the struggle for freedom. 39 years later, the two confront the implications of the time apart that separated them, and the music that helped bring them back together.
Director Jason Bergh has said the film happened by a “beautiful, perfectly-timed accident,” in that it was supposed to be a short promo for Sal’s new album. He says it grew to become the most important project he’s ever worked on – the story of a father exiled from his country, and a son exiled from his father.
Alekesam screens at the TriBeCa Film Festival from the 19th to the 29th of April. To download a single from the soundtrack, visit here.
Masekela Takes on Kirstenbosch - Like a Boss!
27 March 2012
Celebrating the last Sunday of March 2012 at a mass gathering fronted by Hugh Masekela turned out to be an excellent choice. Considering this was the jazz maestro's first appearance as part of the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concert line-up, it was well worth the wait! Starting us off slowly with some moody jazz, Masekela and his band had Cape Town jiving on its feet by the end.
This penultimate concert was a sold out success hosting a multicultural audience bound together by a love for Afro-jazz and a healthy respect for a man who's been following his passion for 56 years. At the age of 72, Masekela still has rhythm and blues coursing through his veins - from the tips of his toes, which never seem to stop moving, to his gyrating hips and up to his vocal chords, which allow his voice to reverberate far beyond the stage. He is one of the great orators of modern history, evoking emotion through his music no matter where he delivers it. He is a high chief in the community of jazz.
Demeanour of a rockstar
Masekela doesn't know the meaning of going meekly and mildly into the setting sun, as he commands the stage with the attitude and demeanour of a rock star with moves that would put a 20-year-old to shame. Encouraging the crowd to set their inhibitions aside for a moment, we freed up our throats and roared in appreciation and literally got down to the music, with many in front participating briefly in "The Bus" dance - looked like an impromptu flash mob.
Children danced in the aisles, perfect strangers became dancing duos and the majestic African voice echoed as one in Kirstenbosch as the crowd sang in unison to many of his well-known songs.
It was a joyous occasion that left me feeling sincerely proudly South African once the curtain figuratively drew on the encore performance.
This was my first experience of a Hugh Masekela concert - jazz isn't really my favourite genre, but after setting my prejudice aside, it won't be my last.
There are No Legends, My Friend
23 March 2012
What can be said of Bra Hugh Masekela that hasn’t already been expressed, more eloquently by other scribes, over the years? I mean this is a man steeped in global jazz pedigree, from ol’ Satchmo to Harry Belafonte and Fela Kuti. The dude is a bonafide, heavyweight South African rock star. Last year I watched him eclipse a line-up that included the brightest young South African musical talent from the Blk Jks to Simphiwe Dana and Kabelo. He gave them a lesson in how to entertain a crowd. And he’s gonna do it again this weekend in Kirstenbosch. We got the “Nelson Mandela of Jazz” on the phone for an impromptu little chat.
Mahala: So you’re playing Kirstenbosch this Sunday. What can we expect?
Hugh Masekela: Do you guys get your questions from a computer? You always ask the same template questions.
Be gentle with me Hugh, it’s a Monday morning… I think the last time I saw you was at the charity thing at Carnival City.
That’s long ago.
I saw you give a talk a few years ago at the Red Bull Music Academy, and you spoke a lot about the pressure on creative people and how the world treats them like a vampire that wants to feed on their creativity. Do you remember that conversation?
I was most interested in your ideas around creativity and where that creativity comes from and your advice for young people who are trying to make original music and culture.
I think no two people are the same. Everybody is inspired from different experiences and with me it’s never been analytical and I don’t try to analyse other people. I can’t tell you what made Marvin Gaye sound so beautiful when he opened his mouth. Or Nat King Cole or Miriam Makeba. It’s something that comes from within a person and some people get more than others. And it’s how much it possesses you and how passionate you are about it and how you work it and, of course, how much skills you learn to improve your capabilities. If you’re a composer or a singer, you have to develop your instrument, you have to develop your skills because you’re working with inanimate objects like instruments, or a voice, and then you have to also learn the craft and the technology of music and all the components. So you have to be a scholar. But the great thing with art, and especially with music, is that you never stop learning. It’s like a bottomless well. And you can do it all your life. So if you work fairly hard at it, you are able to make it maybe when you’re 80, if you’re not in a hurry and you’re still healthy and you’re fine-tuned. Audio crafts and you become more than a creative musician, you come up with things that fascinate people. But it’s a lifetime study, 24/7.
Things are very different even from 20 years ago when people were making music. One of the big currents these days is that advertising and brands have become the biggest powerbroker in creative culture. How do you feel about the current state of play in that regard?
Yeah but there will always be people who like music. There will always be people who are passionate about music, so there will always be that segment of society that supports live music. The biggest thing right now in non-technological music, is live music. People are coming out. We just toured the States, we did fourteen concerts and we sold-out every one, except one, and the people really want to come out to have a good time. There’s a great segment of people who are not necessarily advert or technology crazy, who want to actually have a CD in their hands and I think that will evolve into an audience just as big as the audience for classical music. There will just be people who want to hear music. I think advertising to a great extent and technology to a very great extent have been disadvantageous to art. That a person can just simulate voices and beats and make some of the biggest hits today. That area of music has become about how many units you can sell rather than content. I’m not really a critic, but I know what segment of the music community I belong to, or come from, or am passionate about and I don’t pay attention to trends.
We’re very interested in original music at Mahala, and what that means and who’s making it. Obviously you are a legend in that field but who are you enjoying of late? Who’s making music that you think is important and relevant right now in South Africa?
There are no legends, my friend. Those again are advertising words. Media words. But there are no legends and most people that really consider themselves legends have always self-destructed. When you believe your press then you’re not the same person who started out because they loved what they do. I always try to ward that off, icons and legends, because my grandmother said it very plain, she said: “Listen, you lived here in our house for free for more than seventeen years. You ate more than us. We clothed you. We fed you. We looked after you. We sent you to school. And we exposed you to everything that you’ve heard and it’s from the people who surrounded us and if you don’t know the people you come from then you won’t go anywhere and if you think you’re important, just remember that it took me three years to show you where the bathroom was and I’m still trying to scrub off with ammonia that you left on my back when I used to carry you on my back. And I taught you to talk. I taught you to walk. I taught you how to think and if it weren’t for us you wouldn’t be fokol. So try and remember that all the time, otherwise you’re going to get hurt and if you don’t remember and you don’t tell the story to whoever thinks you’re a legend, then I’ll throw lightening at them and you.” So I’m doing this for your protection.
Thank you bra Hugh.
But I think talent and creativity is a gift of nature and you are blessed with it and I don’t think you should take it for granted. They should be grateful for it and as soon as you start bragging, you are in trouble. I’m just the sum total of the things that I grew up around. What I was lucky to grow up around. And I guess it was fresh days for township communities, but I think that what happened when Apartheid re-shuffled the country, we lost a lot of our mutual admiration because we were manipulated into ethnic groups and conflict just at a time when people were really beginning to work together, especially in the arts and creativity, and that was a big loss. The other loss right now is that the places to play have disappeared because of the new configurations. Like residential life, town planning. We grew up in small townships and there was a community, a welfare centre, a municipal hall in every little township and every township had a band or two and had like singing quartets of men and women and s’cathamiya groups like Black Mambazo. And there was all kinds of rural ethnic music because everybody was an immigrant, so there was major, major musical activity. I think apartheid put a big nail in the coffin, but in the age that we are living in, like socio-political, socio-economic issues are more important, so we’ve lost all the neighbourhoods and places where musicians and artists could hone their skills. There’s no place to play, you can’t take a person anywhere, even when they come and visit and I don’t know how that happened, but you can’t have a country that loves music so much and has so many talented musicians, and not have anywhere to play or anywhere to see music because then how are they going to grow?
How do you encourage young musicians to find their own voice or style? There’s so much derivative music our there because of the way culture gets past down the radio waves and the big monopolies overseas tend to drive their stuff the hardest and that becomes the norm. How do you inspire people to pursue their own original sounds?
Nobody is original. Everybody is an offshoot from their environment. We all learn from other people. Don’t you think?
I suppose so…
If you’re interpreting something, you have to be passionate about it. And also you have to be honest with yourself because if you’re like fifteen, sixteen, seventeen and nobody has told you that you can play or you can sing, it means that you’re not in the loop. But also people should remember that there are different disciplines surrounding music, there’s sound engineering, entertainment law, road managers, managers, lighting, there’s all kinds of stuff. If you’re not talented you should know, you can’t be in music just because you love it. It’s an art and it needs skill. But it also needs natural talent so people have to be honest with themselves. There are no real formulas. Be passionate, study your craft and you’ll get somewhere and if you’re not in it for the glamour, I think you’ll go very far.
Hugh Masekela: Wedding Songs That Don't Sound Blue
March 19, 2012
In 1968, Hugh Masekela was not quite 30 years old and though he was in exile from his homeland of South Africa, he seemed ready to become at home on the American jazz and pop markets. That summer, he had scored a number one single, "Grazing in the Grass." A year earlier, he'd been one of the few international performers at the 1967 Monterrey International Pop Festival and had appeared in its D.A. Pennebaker documentary. Yet strangely enough, over the next 45 years Masekela never quite found his sweet spot. He was never off the map, but seemed to change record labels frequently, make vibrant albums followed by rambling ones, travel among musical styles without ever settling down. This may have finally changed with his new album, Jabulani.
A veteran doing traditional tunes from his younger days may seem like a trite format. But it's good to remember that if the material feels contemporary to the performer, and not wool-gathering, it will sound contemporary to the listener. Masekela has been gaining skill at adapting local styles since he returned to South Africa in 1992. He began as a scattershot soloist way back when, but his recent work has acquired a burnished, almost majestic understatement that has never had a finer display than Jabulani.
One glorious quality of the mbaquanga music Masekela draws upon for these interpretations is that the style is able to address sad, even tragic subjects and make them sound serious but never mopey. The song "Mfana" tells of a young man whose sister was his dearest friend, but now she has married a man who lives so far away he will never see her again. The tune gradually turns encouraging, advocating a happier tomorrow, and feels like a party by the finish.
Like a sturdy blues album, Jabulani sounds more timeless than old or new, the strongest mbaquanga workout since the '80s heyday of Malathini and the Mahotella Queens. The style of this record solves a persistent problem for Masekela — he's strained to seem up-to-date, and has too often come up with forced, middlebrow-contemporary fusions. By turning to music that lives in the moment in his mind, he sounds at rest, and yes, home at last.
Bra Hugh Salutes the Queen
18 March 2012
Photograph by Getty Images
Hugh Masekela serenaded Britain's Queen Elizabeth and nearly 2000 people at Westminster Abbey on Monday to commemorate Commonwealth Day.
Masekela was part of a group of high-profile artists who entertained the queen and a royal delegation that included Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla.
Commonwealth Day is held each year on the second Monday of March to celebrate the British Commonwealth.
Masekela, who is an outspoken advocate of civil rights, belted out an anti-war song.
Before singing, the jazzman told his audience: "With this great song that I have done with Caiphus Semenya, we call on the people of the world to cease contemplating war against each other."
Canadian musicians Rufus Wainwright and Laura Wright, Nigerian-born writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the Descarga Dance Company also performed .
Queen Elizabeth, in a pre-recorded address, stressed the importance of cultural connections in the Commonwealth family.
"This year, our Commonwealth focus seeks to explore how we can share and strengthen the bond of Commonwealth citizenship we enjoy by using our cultural connections to help bring us even closer together as family and friends across the globe," she said.
The 54-nation Commonwealth consists mostly of states that were part of the British Empire.