Acclaimed Trumpeter Hugh Masekela Dies at 78

South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, a leading jazz and world music artist died today, January 23, 2018 in Johannesburg.

The Masekela family issued a press release: “It is with profound sorrow that the family of Ramapolo Hugh Masekela announce his passing. After a protracted and courageous battle with prostate cancer, he passed peacefully in Johannesburg, South Africa, surrounded by his family.”

Born in Johannesburg in 1939, Hugh Masekela was widely considered both the father of African jazz and South Africa’s musical ambassador to the world. Masekela’s trumpet (introduced to him by anti-apartheid activist Father Trevor Huddleston) was an instrument of resistance, a call to freedom, and a celebration of the strength and resilience of people.

His powerful blend of jazz, funk, Afrobeat, and Latin rhythms first mourned the tragedy of apartheid and then celebrated its long-awaited demise. Over the span of his life-long career, he released dozens of albums, toured the world-over, and performed with renowned artists, including Louis Armstrong, Paul Simon (on the Graceland tour), Adrian Below, The Byrds, Miriam Makeba, Zimbabwean Dorothy Masuka, the Jazz Epistles, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Hedzoleh Soundz, Francis Fuster, and Dudu Pukwana.

When Masekela went into exile during the 1960s, Harry Belafonte helped him settle in the United States, as a student in New York, where he recorded much music including his 1968 hit Grazing in the Grass.”

His 1987 hit “Bring Him Back Home” became the anthem for Nelson Mandela’s world tour following his release from prison in 1992. Masekela returned to South Africa in 1990.

In 2010, President Jacob Zuma presented Hugh Masekela the highest award in South Africa: The Order of Ikhamanga. In 2011, Masekela received a Lifetime Achievement award at the World Music Expo, WOMEX in Copenhagen.


Trumpet Africaine (Mercury, 1962)
Grrr (Mercury, 1966)
The Americanization of Ooga Booga (MGM, 1966)
Hugh Masekela’s Next Album (MGM, 1966)
The Emancipation of Hugh Masekela (Chisa Records, 1966)
Hugh Masekela’s Latest (Uni, 1967)
Hugh Masekela Is Alive and Well at the Whisky (Uni, 1967)
The Promise of a Future (Uni, 1968)
Africa ’68 (Uni, 1968)
The Lasting Impression of Hugh Masekela (MGM, 1968)
Masekela (Uni, 1969)
Reconstruction (Chisa, 1970)
Hugh Masekela & The Union of South Africa (Chisa, 1971)
Home Is Where the Music Is (aka The African Connection) (Blue Thumb Chisa, 1972)
Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz (Blue Thumb Chisa], 1973)
I Am Not Afraid (Blue Thumb Chisa, 1974)
The Boy’s Doin’ It (Casablanca, 1975)
Colonial Man (Casablanca, 1976)
Melody Maker (Casablanca, 1976)
You Told Your Mama Not to Worry (Casablanca, 1977)
Herb Alpert / Hugh Masekela (Horizon, 1978)
Main Event Live, with Herb Alpert (A&M, 1978)
Home (Moonshine/Columbia, 1982)
Techno-Bush (Jive Afrika, 1984)
Waiting for the Rain (Jive Afrika, 1985)
Tomorrow (Warner Bros., 1987)
Uptownship (Jive/Novus Records, 1989)
Beatin’ Aroun de Bush (Novus Records, 1992)
Hope (Triloka Records, 1994)
Stimela (Connoisseur Collection, 1994)
Notes of Life (Columbia/Music, 1996)
Black to the Future (Shanachie Records, 1998)
The Best of Hugh Masekela on Novus (RCA, 1999)
Sixty (Shanachie, 2000)
Grazing in the Grass: The Best of Hugh Masekela (Sony, 2001)
Time (Columbia, 2002)
Live at the BBC (Strange Fruit, 2002)
The Collection (Universal/Spectrum, 2003)
Still Grazing (Blue Thumb, 2004)
Revival (Heads Up, 2005)
Almost Like Being in Jazz (Chissa Records, 2005)
The Chisa Years: 1965–1975 (Rare and Unreleased) (BBE, 2006)
Live at the Market Theatre (Four-Quarters Ent, 2007)
Phola (Four-Quarters Ent, 2009)
Jabulani (Listen 2, 2012)
Friends (Hugh Masekela and Larry Willis) (House of Masekela, 2012)
Playing @ Work (House of Masekela, 2012)
No Borders (Universal Music, 2016)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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