Jazz review: Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl
23 June 2011
Los Angeles Times
By Chris Barton
PHOTO: COURTESY OF GARY FRIEDMAN / LOS ANGELES TIMES
Though by nature jazz is an improvisational thing that's seldom heard the same way twice, there was a feeling of knowing what to expect heading into Wednesday night's show at the Hollywood Bowl with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Led with a fierce dedication by trumpeter and former "Young Lion" Wynton Marsalis, the Lincoln Center jazz orchestra is a sort of roving, 15-headed family of finely tuned ambassadors dedicated to advancing the cause of jazz around the world. This, of course, is hardly a bad thing.
Though Marsalis has been a controversial figure in outspoken efforts to define what jazz was and wasn't, those internecine struggles seem an afterthought in 2011. Erecting borders between genres seems almost quaint among most listeners in the iTunes era, and nodding toward pop, world and electronic influences is practically required among today's most celebrated artists in jazz and elsewhere.
An example of such hybridization came with opener Hugh Masekela, who has built a long career out of melding jazz with sounds from his native South Africa along with touches of pop and funk. Though the beginning of his set breezily flirted with smooth jazz in a manner well-suited to scoring the Bowl's late arrivers, Masekela and his band eventually showed a kinetic edge true to his past collaborations with Fela Kuti and "Graceland"-era Paul Simon.
Opening with Masekela's grim narration describing the terrors of conscripted African workers riding by rail into mineral mines, "Stimela" took the night to a surprisingly dark, atmospheric place punctuated by Masekela's raspy sound effects. The mood didn't stay down long, however, as "Lady" rose into driving Afropop atop Randal Skipper's funky keyboard, and the 1968 hit "Grazing in the Grass" ended things on a summery note with its signature stuttering piano and Masekela's weaving flugelhorn.
Forming a bridge of sorts from Masekela's set with Jackie McLean's "Appointment in Ghana," the first half of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's set held to its mission of spreading the gospel of jazz tradition. The insistent pulse of Jelly Roll Morton's "New Orleans Bump" spotlighted the Crescent City, and Chris Crenshaw's smooth vocal led the bluesy "I Left My Baby (Standing in the Back Door Crying)," which was punctuated by a bawdily muted solo from fellow trombonist Vincent Gardner.
In an arrangement by saxophonist Ted Nash, the orchestra also showcased a deft hand with originals in a selection from 2010's "Portrait of Seven Shades." It was an intricately cinematic turn that hinted toward the orchestra's classical-leaning "Swing Symphony" from earlier this year, and it was disappointing that the sprawling, Spanish-informed release "Vitoria Suite" from last year wasn't also given a moment to showcase the group's versatility.
Instead, the second half of the set was dedicated to the late James Moody, which is certainly tough to complain about. With the powerhouse Joe Lovano joining the band on saxophone, the orchestra offered another history lesson with Moody's brassy debut "Emanon" and the lilting "Moody's Mood for Love," a heartfelt dedication to the saxophonist's widow (sitting in a terrace box) highlighted by rapid-fire vocal turns from Gardner and, amusingly, Crenshaw as his voice brushed against the top of his range.
After "Slow Hot Wind" led the orchestra into a swaggering sort of funk well-suited for a '70s film score, Marsalis led the band back into taut, hard-bop swing with Dizzy Gillespie's "Things to Come." With the orchestra firing behind him at a pace that was frantic but never out of control, Lovano bent his body ever deeper into a twisting, accelerating solo. It was a moment firmly grounded in the past but very much alive.
Trumpet grooves from Masekela's homeland
22 June 2011
By Billie Odidi
PHOTO: COURTESY OF ROCK PAPER SCISSOR
Born out of South Africa's apartheid system, Hugh Masekela was an early entrant into the world of trumpets and drumbeats; benefiting immensely from some of the best musical experiences of the world.
His first trumpet was a gift from Louis Armstrong; Harry Belafonte facilitated his flight to New York where Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis hosted him.
When he recently sprinted onto the stage in Nairobi, Masekela, who turned 72 in April, left many wowed. “My wife and I practice the Chinese martial arts tai chi every day and I swim and laugh a lot,” he said, when asked about his vigorous 2-hour show, accompanied by a largely youthful band.
Ever the entertainer, the witty trumpeter, vocalist and songwriter regaled the crowd with humorous tales in between performances.
He recalled the apartheid laws in South Africa that prohibited Africans from consuming alcohol and how he grew up in a drinking den watching his grandmother play hide and seek with the police. “I didn’t turn out too badly for a boy born in a shebeen,” Masekela joked while performing Khauleza, a song originally by another South African great Dorothy Masuka.
Stimela the protest note
It is by hearing tales of cruelty and measly pay from migrant labourers who used to drink in his grandmother’s shebeen that he wrote the powerful protest song Stimela. The 1972 classic which begins with Masekela mimicking the steam engine that carried forced labour to Johannesburg still arouses strong passions.
Though generally categorised as a jazz artiste, Masekela’s music is a whole lot more, reflecting the wide diversity of his experiences, including 30 years in exile. There are distinct influences from traditional mbaqanga of South Africa, West African Afrobeat and even a trace of Congolese rumba. “ My music is a potpourri of the music of the African diaspora,” he says, “ I am the sum total of my influences.”
The swinging groove of Makoti (originally recorded by Miriam Makeba and the Skylarks in 1959), from the latest album Jabulani,is irresistible. The album, which reunites him with long-time producer Don Laka, is a collection of South African folk wedding songs inspired by the township ceremonies of yesteryear.
Hugh Masekela to appear at Ottawa Jazz Festival
14 June 2011
By Dan Lalande
Fans of World Music, rest easy; you have not been forgotten – at least not by the upcoming TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival.
Looking to fill the void left by the abrupt and disappointing cancellation of Youssou Ndour’s Canadian tour, the fest has scored a major coup by bagging South African trumpet player and vocalist Hugh Masekela, thanks to a serendipitous gap in his schedule.
Masekela, who will be gracing the festival’s Canal Stage on June 28, was one of the first artists to bring worldwide attention to the scourge of apartheid, and his music continues to remind us of the tragedy and triumph of that struggle.
Yes, we’ve all seen political figures of note in Ottawa, from Prime Ministers to Presidents – but how many have sold millions of CDs, taken home a Grammy, and can still be called relevant well into their golden years?
For more information, go to ottawajazzfestival.com
Bra Hugh goes in search of SA’s rich pageant
7 April 2011
By Therese Owen
PHOTO BY: JEFFREY ABRAHAMS
Cape Town 090404-South African music icon Hugh Masekela celebrated his 70th birthday on the Kippies stage at the Cape Town Jazz Festival. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams
The liner notes of Hugh Masekela’s opening track, Sossie, on his latest album, Jabulani read as follows: “An ex-lover castigates her other half for going into exile in Hiroshima and marrying a local who can’t dance and is an intellectual and very stiff person. In the townships, being unable to dance is a sign of dementia and total social bankruptcy.”
The final part of the lyrics captures Bra Hugh’s witty personality and incisive insight into life. Jabulani is a tribute to the township weddings of yesteryear, a time he remembers with much fondness.
“Township weddings are funny things,” he grins. “From the time of the lobola to the bride getting ready, there was normally a white flag which goes up in front of the houses of both parties. For a month beforehand, the people would rehearse the wedding songs and march up and down until around about midnight. As a child, it was one of my favourite times. There was special choreography for each song. On the day of the wedding the elders would give advice. I remember the ululating and the women sweeping the ground in front of the couple,” he says.
“Later on, as a teenager, I was allowed to join in the rehearsals. It was a great opportunity to meet people of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, with the violence in the early 1990s, those practices went away. So much has disappeared since then. My biggest obsession is heritage. From now on my work in film, theatre, music is going to involve heritage.”
Jabulani does indeed reflect South African heritage. But more than that, it is also a really great album – accessible light, poppy jazz delivered with careful finesse and just the right amount of playful spontaneity. The production, of course, is world class – in fact, the album is one of the best releases of the year so far.
But it is the heritage part which is preoccupying Bra Hugh.
“Years ago, Friday nights in my township of Alex, the Bapedi and Bavenda people would play the drums. It was a pageantry. However, the ethnic grouping killed that. The apartheid government divided us and fostered hate. Later on, everybody became a victim of television. Television is allergic to heritage. Twenty years from now when they ask the children, they’ll reply ‘we once were African’.”
“In Western culture, children go to ballet. There is Bach, Beethoven, who lived 500 years ago. Opera was invented 700 years ago. Yet these cultures are still retained. They were funded by the church and by royalty. Heritage has to be funded,” says the jazz legend.
“In Africa, we were convinced by colonialists that our culture was backward, heathen. Africans are the only people who imitate other cultures to the point of turning their backs on their own culture.”
The discussions moves to the latest youth craze, hip hop. “I went into music because I loved music. However, even when I was overseas, I never picked up the lifestyles of Count Bassey. But then again, hip hop is a lifestyle and once you are part of it, everything else is irrelevant. It is like for some, the only thing that is relevant is their political party, or their soccer team, or their religion.”
“Mario van Peebles told me his child was smart and then he started wearing those hip hop clothes and his marks started to drop. In the 1990s, a lot of children were put down for being smart in class. Mario went to the school and told them that its fine to do the ‘Yo!’ thing but at 50, you still can’t be saying ‘Yo!’ – you need to be educated to help make a success of your life.
“Another friend told me how his son got six distinctions, but told his dad that he wanted to be a ‘hey, ho man’ for a year.”
A ‘hey, ho’ man? Bra Hugh laughs and puts his hands in the air and starts swinging them from side to side: “You know, hey, ho, hey ho.”
Much mirth follows after that before he gets serious again.
“As kwaito disappeared, they didn’t arm themselves for anything else. I think they’re still in shock as to where they are now.”
He sums up his approach to his quest for South Africans to rediscover their heritage: “If you want to bring back heritage, you can’t preach it. It must be done through music. I am looking to bring those pageantries back, where eventually they will have their own amphitheatres… It can be done slowly, but it will grow.”
Hugh Masekela Day Proclaimed in the V.I.
17 March 2011
St. John Source
Governor John P. de Jongh Jr. has proclaimed March 18 on St. Croix and March 19 on St. Thomas as “Hugh Masekela Day” in the U.S. Virgin Islands in honor of the legendary South African musician.
Hugh Ramopolo Masekela, a trumpeter, flugel hornist, cornetist, composer, band leader and singer, was born April 4, 1939 in Kwa-Guqa Township, Witbank, South Africa. Throughout his career, he has created music that closely reflects his life’s experiences and vividly expresses the struggles, hardships, conflicts and sorrows of the people of South Africa, as well as the joys and passions of his country.
Masekela spent 30 years in exile for his role in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. At the start of that period, his first song, “Grazing in the Grass,” topped the U.S. charts in 1968 and sold over four million copies worldwide. In 1987, he released the hit single, “Bring Him Back Home,” which became the anthem for the movement to free former South African President Nelson Mandela.
He has performed with many of the world's top jazz ensembles, and his life story has been featured in various South African documentary films. He has received several prestigious awards, including the African Music Legend Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2002 International Award of the Year. Among the highlights of his career, Masekela gave a critically acclaimed performance at the 2010 World Cup Kick-off concert in South Africa.
This week, there are a number of special events taking place with Masekela, including:
Thursday, March 17th, 6-7 p.m. Hugh Masekela will give a freelecture about his work as an activist, including how his music raised international awareness of apartheid. The lecture will be in the Great Hall, University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix campus. The public on St. Thomas can enjoy the lecture in the ACC Building, room 142 1B and 146 1A as a video link on the UVI’s St. Thomas campus. A brief question and answer session will follow.
Masekela will also perform in concert at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 18, on St. Croix, at Island Center for the Performing Arts and at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 19, on St. Thomas at the Reichhold Center for the Arts.
Masekela arrived in the territory on Tuesday and departs on Sunday. Governor de Jongh calls on Virgin Islanders to join him in observing Hugh Masekela Day to honor a great musician, humanitarian and civil rights activist.
Man with a horn gives voice to a people
10 March 2011
By Denise Ryan
Legendary trumpeter Masekela is working hard to restore South Africa's heritage
When legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela lifts his horn on Saturday night at the Chan centre, he won't be playing his music.
Music doesn't belong to anyone. It's part of the world we are born into.
"I get a little confused when artists say 'my music,' " said Masekela in an interview from Los Angeles. "I don't think anybody comes into the world with music. You find it here. I found it here."
It's an important distinction for Masekela, who says his current obsession is heritage restoration in South Africa.
"It's very important, especially in South Africa where, with advertising, television and religion, South Africans were manipulated into thinking that their heritage was heathen, pagan, backward, primitive.
"It's very important at this time in our lifetime to restore in their heads that their heritage is magnificent."
It's a tough fight in an impoverished society, says Masekela, who first picked up a trumpet at 14 after seeing the Kirk Douglas film Young Man with a Horn.
Masekela was provided with a musical education by the legendary anti-apartheid campaigner, Father Trevor Huddleston.
Music and activism have been naturally entwined in his life ever since.
"People think I use music as a form of activism, but the truth is I come from a very activist society ... it would have been awkward if I had the world's attention and spoke about flowers."
Masekela's stop in Vancouver is part of a vigorous international touring schedule: He just performed with U2 in Johannesburg before 98,000 people.
Masekela became a household name internationally in 1968 with his pop-jazz hit Grazin' in the Grass and later toured with ex-wife Miriam Makeba and Paul Simon on Simon's Graceland tour, bringing the sounds of South Africa to a pop audience.
Masekela is now actively working to bring traditional South African music -the folk music of the townships, of protest, of ceremony -to a new generation in the country of his birth.
He recently collaborated with director James Ngcobo to create Songs of Migration, an awardwinning theatrical musical tribute to honour the songs of South African migrants.
"There was nothing in South Africa that did not have to do with song," he said. "A child's birth, a death ... our songs were emboldening, galvanizing, about courage, affirming our right to be, and to protest."
Songs of resistance are also songs of beauty, he explains. "That's one of the secrets of oppressed people's songs ... Oppressed people have all kinds of signs, underground moves, hidings, codes," he said.
"South Africa is probably the only country in human history where music was a major catalyst to drive the struggle," he said.
In 1987, his third decade in exile from South Africa, Masekela wrote Mandela (bring him back home), an international hit that became a galvanizing cry for the movement to free Nelson Mandela.
Masekela's music, and the role of the music in the struggle to free South Africa from apartheid was powerfully captured in the 2002 documentary Amandla, a Revolution in Four Part Harmony.
"In Amandla, there is a part where the white cop said, 'We were sitting on tanks and combat vehicles, but when thousands of people came singing, it put the fear of God in us. Even though we were armed to the teeth.'" South Africa is still not fully free, said Masekela.
"Now we are free from the yoke of oppression, from the police harassment, but no one has said to us, 'Here's the money'."
With the end of apartheid, said Masekela, "we freed our oppressors ... the South African economic machine could not do business in most countries with the cultural and economic boycott. But when we were freed, whose riches were multiplied? The powerful owners of the economy."
Masekela said he doesn't think anger helps, but music does.
"I have never been angry. I have always liked objecting to injustice."
His most important work now is to be active musically in his community, to restore, and to keep alive what has kept him vital through seven decades.
"I impart what I know," he said.
Amandla: A Revolution in Four Part Harmony will be showing tonight at Pacific Cinematheque, 1131 Howe St., 7 p.m.
On Friday at noon, Masekela will give a public talk about the role of the musician as cultural ambassador at UBC Robson Square, 800 Robson Street.
After Apartheid, His Music Brings Us Together
8 March 2011
San Francisco Classical Voice
By Jeff Kaliss
European culture and government were for centuries imposed by white settlers on the indigenous peoples of South Africa. Along with these imports came both the doctrine and the music of the Protestant church. Blacks not only made skilled and soulful use of hymn books, but they later sought out the popular music of the Americas, ultimately integrating their own traditional approaches to phrasing and vocalization.
For most of his 72 years, Hugh Masekela, born in a segregated township east of Johannesburg and educated at parochial schools, has managed to turn the missionary thing around, blessing the rest of the world with the uplifting and powerful sounds of black South Africa.
He’s fronted symphony orchestras in England, and has been featured at jazz festivals, as he was last Friday, inaugurating SFJAZZ’s Spring Season.
“It might change your whole life tonight,” he advised the crowd of some 750 at the Palace of Fine Arts. He then lifted his gleaming flugelhorn and led his sextet in Stimela, his tribute song, sung in the Zulu language, to underpaid mine workers brought in by train from all over southern and central Africa.
Later in the set, after showcasing his wiseacre wit and agile dance moves, he had everyone in the audience standing and swaying to a happier, syncopated number, Kahuleza. They shared a cheer of delighted recognition when he took up the cowbell to usher in Grazing in the Grass, his brassy and optimistic number-one hit of 1968, which was most folks’ introduction to Masekela and township jazz.
Speaking by phone from his homeland, a few weeks before his San Francisco gig, Masekela recalled his first musical assignment, as a child in the 1940s, cranking his parents’ gramophone to propel 78s bearing the sounds of jazz-influenced American pop and the black South African groups that had adopted jazz, as well as modernized folk songs in the Xhosa language. By age 8, he’d begun classes with a missionary-trained pianist and was learning Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Haydn, Liszt, and Mozart. Four years later he was sent to St. Peter’s Secondary, a boarding school, where he came under the fateful watch of Trevor Huddleston, a white, self-described “Christian Socialist” with a good ear for music.
Huddleston’s opposition to the advent of apartheid, South Africa’s government-sanctioned system of racial segregation, eventually got the chaplain sent back to his native England, but not before he’d formed a popular performing ensemble of St. Peter’s students, including the teenaged Masekela, who admits to having been “in trouble all the time with the authorities.” After witnessing the 1950 Michael Curtiz–directed biopic Young Man With a Horn, with Kirk Douglas portraying the legendary Bix Beiderbecke, Masekela pleaded to his chaplain, “If I can get a trumpet, Father, I won’t bother anybody anymore.” The result of this plea is depicted on the front cover of Masekela’s 2004 autobiography, Still Grazing: He’s shown in a photograph leaping high in the air, grasping a trumpet that had been donated to the Huddleston Jazz Band by none other than Louis Armstrong.
Musical advancement was among the many opportunities forbidden blacks by apartheid — even Armstrong was denied a tour — so Huddleston helped Masekela gain admission to the Guildhall School of Music in London, where he “studied trumpet and theory and took a few lessons.” But his girlfriend, singer Miriam Makeba, urged him to join her in New York, where she’d begun to establish an expatriate career with help from successful folksinger and actor Harry Belafonte. Further urging came through correspondence with bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, who received his fellow horn player into “the Golden Age of Jazz” on the night of Masekela’s arrival in Manhattan, introducing him to the giants of that genre.
Entering a Golden Age
“Dizzy was playing opposite [pianist Thelonious] Monk at the Jazz Gallery,” Masekela recounted. “And down the street at the Friars Club were [drummer] Max Roach and [bassist] Charlie Mingus. I was tired, I was wanting to go to sleep, but Dizzy said, ‘No, no, no, man; I just spoke to [saxophonist] John Coltrane, and he’s expecting you at the Half Note. You can’t go to sleep now!’ And that was my first day in New York.”
With pull from Makeba, Belafonte, and others, Masekela had been admitted to the Manhattan School of Music, where he discovered that “I knew more than most of the teachers. But I learned classical music and how to play the trumpet properly, and composition and orchestration.” Launching his career in his adopted country’s clubs and on its record labels, Masekela found himself among a generation of jazz trumpeters, including Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd, eager to emulate Clifford Brown, who’d died in a car crash in 1956 but had left a legacy of “a musicality that hadn’t been heard, ever.”
Masekela yearned to follow Brown’s path into drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, considered a springboard to success. “But people like Belafonte and Dizzy and Miriam and Miles [Davis] said to me, ‘You’re just gonna be a statistic if you play jazz. But if you put in some of the stuff you remember from Africa, you’ll be different from everybody.’”
Belafonte, one of the strongest early advocates of what would later be called world music, helped the young trumpeter make money out of his and Makeba’s grounding in the sounds of their homeland. “Hughie was just a great source of talent,” said Belafonte, now 84, speaking from his New York headquarters. “When I called on him to help me find some of the African songs that I wanted to sing and record, and to do arranging, or play, he just filled the space brilliantly. And no other music on the continent of Africa quite resonated with the black American culture as did the South African.” The music and politics of that country made an activist out of Belafonte, which he remains to this day.
Finding a Voice, Defining a Genre
Masekela spanned the North American continent over the course of the 1960s, performing live in San Francisco at the Both/And, a progressive jazz bar on Divisadero Street; at the Monterey Pop Festival; and in Los Angeles at the Whiskey A Go Go, where a recorded, instrumental cover of the Fifth Dimension’s Up, Up and Away got him on the pop charts. After the spectacular success of Grazing in the Grass, Masekela decided to exchange his trumpet for a flugelhorn. “I’d heard Miles play it on this one track, though I don’t remember which record,” he said, probably referring to Miles Ahead (1957) or Sketches of Spain (1960). “I thought it sounded so magical and big. And my trumpet sounded so screechy.”
After a brief marriage to Makeba in the ’60s — “We hardly saw each other, which is basically why we broke up” — Masekela pursued other relationships over the next several decades, some of them plagued by one or both parties’ overindulgence in drugs and alcohol. He continued to record on his own and in collaboration with a number of artists throughout the African continent, including Nigeria’s Fela Kuti and Ghana’s Hedzoleh Soundz, and alternated between homes there and in the U.S., meanwhile incorporating songs and stylings from all these places in his repertoire. Masekela remained unable to return to his own beleaguered country, though he expressed his support in song for imprisoned black South African leader Nelson Mandela, and some of his songs became musical rallying cries back home.
He even founded a music school in Botswana, close to South Africa, with European, American, and African faculty imparting a broad curriculum, including Western classical music, to a principally African student body. The school was invaded in 1984 by a renegade death squad, the so-called South African Defense Force, which killed 16 people.
In 1987, Masekela joined Paul Simon in a tour behind the Grammy-winning, South African–flavored album Graceland. The same year, he also contributed to the musical Sarafina!, based on the Soweto uprising of 1976 in which protesting black schoolchildren were gunned down. The show enjoyed a long run on Broadway, and reached San Francisco during a national tour.
Return and Healing
After Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, Masekela was inspired to end his exile. He found that black performers, including Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens (stars of the bubbly mbaqanga genre) and the soulful a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, were beginning to play to integrated audiences at home, as well as to burgeoning fans of world music abroad, though conflicts between rival black factions and increases in urban migration and crime were fomenting new troubles in South Africa. After decades of waiting, Masekela staged a home tour.
At the tail end of 1997, Masekela set out to resolve his recurring substance abuse by enrolling in a rehabilitation program in England, much to the relief of his family and colleagues and such long-time friends as Harry Belafonte. “Hughie has put a lot of resources into developing young music students in South Africa, but there’s also something else,” Belafonte pointed out. “He took his addiction and not only cured it, but went on a campaign, very publicly, to say, ‘I was an addict and I tell you these are the dangers and the downfall and the cruelty and the tragedy of that experience, and I beseech you all not to do it.’”
In 1999, Masekela married Elinam Cofie, a native of Ghana whom he’d encountered on a voyage there two decades earlier. (Their love story is celebrated in the song “Ghana,” on his latest release, Phola, whose Zulu title means “to get well, to heal.”) In 2007, the flugelhornist made the first of several appearances with the London Symphony Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which, he admitted, ruffled his trademark composure.
“It was the formality, and the fact that if I miss something, it’s gone,” he said about his classical excursion. “There was a trumpet concerto [by Jason Yarde, performed with the LSO to celebrate Masekela’s 70th birthday], which was very hard on the chops, with very difficult time signatures and all that. I had to be on the ball, and I was very glad when it was over. But, by popular demand, we had to perform it a second and third time. It was sold out, and the audiences went wild.”
Both South Africa and Masekela garnered renewed international attention in 2010 as hosts of soccer’s FIFA World Cup, with the flugelhornist appearing on stage in Soweto in the opening concert. Over the course of the Cup, he reappeared in a series of vignettes that had him showing off his homeland to his visiting eldest son, Sal, an American-based sports commentator, actor, and singer.
Clean and sober, Masekela now states, “Heritage restoration is my biggest obsession.” His upcoming album, Jabulani, will feature South African folk wedding songs. “Our heritage has been condemned over the years by religion and colonization, and by Western media and culture,” Masekela noted, “and unless African music is owned, produced, distributed, packaged, and sold by Africans to Africans in Africa, you can’t say African music is growing. It’s very important to revive heritage and make it visible, so that when our grandchildren grow up, they won’t have to say, ‘We used to be Africans ... long ago.’”
Hugh Masekela joins U2 in Johannesburg
14 February 2011
By Jill Marino
"360" got off to a truly magnificent start last night, as U2 played to a whopping 98,000 fans in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"We know Jo'burg has a night life. We know Jo'burg needs to go a bit crazy," Bono said to the crowd before U2 played "Crazy Tonight". The record-breaking audience were treated to many surprises, including trumpeter Hugh Masekela playing with the band during "I Still Haven't Found" and a special new lyric during "Pride", as Bono sang a tribute to Nelson Mandela:
"February 13, 1990 / Words ring out in a Jo'burg sky / Free at last to live your life / The Lion of Africa and his pride"
The band also showed images of the recent events in Egypt during "Sunday Bloody Sunday".
As for the rest of the setlist (via U2Tours), a lot of it resembled what they played last year in Europe and Australia. Songs like "I Will Follow", "North Star", "Miss Sarajevo", and encore starter "Hold Me, Thrill Me" all made appearances. However, U2gigs is reporting that opener "Space Oddity" was cut and a "Get On Your Boots" remix was played instead. "Beautiful Day" opened the show, but unlike last year, it wasn't introduced with "Return of the Stingray Guitar".
Click here for video of "With or Without You" and "Moment of Surrender" from last night in Johannesburg. Check around the 7:45 mark when Bono asks for the lights to be turned down. What a beautiful image of those cell phones illuminating that stadium. It's so great to see U2 back on stage and for giving fans a night that they will remember forever. I can't wait for the North American leg to start!
Hugh Masekela surprised 98,000 U2 fans in Johannesburg last night when he joined the band onstage to play "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)." Check out the video here.
Hugh Masekela, Usher Hall, Edinburgh
16 November 2010
The Herald Scotland
By Rob Adams
Philip McGillicuddy was born in Liverpool and hung out with John, Paul, George, Ringo and … Mick before being washed across the seas to South Africa. The swim through all the muck gave him a certain complexion and a passing couple took pity on him, fished him out and – ach, you’ve twigged. I’m at it. Or rather, Hugh Masekela was at it, with an alternative biography.
The South African flugelhorn player and cultural icon is a rascal. He does almost as much leg-pulling as music-making. But it all adds up to a party, even if some dancers were out of their seats too early for Mr M’s liking.
Such keen audience participation is a tribute to the persuasiveness of Masekela’s groove because the opening numbers, coming close to smooth jazz with township-churchy melodies, were a clear indication that Masekela knows how to pace a gig. Fluctuating between skilful horn improvisations, percussion instruments, the vocal mic and a sort of personal tai chi, he has his band well drilled. When they do fire up, it’s relative, although guitarist Cameron Ward produced much appealingly stinging playing, and still geared towards making Masekela, rightly, the focus.
A very youthful 71, Masekela handles the limelight with ease, getting his message across succinctly and “toot tooting” his way through Stimela, his song about the coal train that brings forced labour into South Africa, without diluting its potency. Thereafter the dancers had his blessing and the groove eased up a notch without appearing to overtax the musicians.
Hugh Masekela – review
11 November 2010
By Dave simpson
When I look at the time I have left," Hugh Masekela told the Guardian last week, "I have to hurry up." This may explain why the great South African trumpeter is such a bundle of energy on stage. Apparently aged 71 (you would never believe it), he performs for two hours, causing much amusement with his "man climbing imaginary rope" dancing. He has even learned a Newcastle dialect. "Hello Gits Heed!" he bellows, embarking on a surreal tale of how he was actually a Geordie who was swept up by a storm to a land of lions and walruses. "In the townships, one of the greatest delicacies was a goat's head, so I was very excited to come here," he continues, to uproar.
The same indefatigable energy accompanies his playing, as his remarkable tones power a mostly young band through jazz, funk, rock and soul and the Afrobeat/hi-life that inspired everything from Paul Simon's Graceland to Vampire Weekend. The grooves are so infectious that even the venue's stewards are dancing.
Masekela seems to speak through his horn – conveying every imaginable sound and emotion – and uses his voice in a similar way. The extraordinarily intense Coal Train sees him mimicking the steam engines that carried forced labour to Johannesburg, complete with a perfect "toot toot!" Apartheid may be no more, but his entertaining, educational songs resonate with tales of jailed campaigners. He touches on the environment and this week's student riots, joking how "noisy" the British are, before mentioning people who are "running from men and women who they voted into power and have now forgotten about them".
But he doesn't linger, storming into Bob Marley's Africa Unite, asking if "Gits Heed" would like some more.