Hugh Masekela

Jazz, Instrumental and Solo Musician - Johannesburg
Hugh Masekela


Hugh Ramopolo Masekela (born April 4, 1939) is a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer. Masekela was born in Kwa-Guqa Township, Witbank, South Africa. He began singing and playing piano as a child. At age 14, after seeing the film Young Man With a Horn (in which Kirk Douglas plays a character modeled after American jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke), he took up playing the trumpet. His first trumpet was given to him by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, the anti-apartheid chaplain at St. Peter's Secondary School.

Masekela began recording extensively with the late great Miriam Makeba and can be heard adding his trumpet, singing and arranging talents to some of the singer's very best records. By 1963, the trumpeter had recorded his first solo album, "Trumpet Africaine", and the following year, Makeba and Masekela were wed. The trumpeter's breakthrough record was his engaging 1965 live performance, "The Americanization of Ooga Booga".

Masekela and Makeba divorced in 1966 and the trumpeter relocated to Los Angeles. Soon he began to take charge of his own career. He attracted a sizable following on the West Coast and could be heard playing his brand of African popular music alongside emerging rock bands (The Byrds, Bob Marley). He began recording for MCA's hip pop subsidiary, UNI Records, where he released his biggest hit ever, "Grazing In The Grass" (1968).

By the beginning of the 1970´s he had attained international fame, selling out all of America´s festivals.

Hugh Masekela


Heeding the call of his African roots, he moved to Guinea, then Liberia and Ghana after recording the historical "Home is where Music is" with Dudu Pukwana. After a tour and two duet albums with Herb Alpert, Masekela and Miriam Makeba played a Christmas Day concert in Lesotho in 1980 where 75 000 people attended (they had been away from the region for 20 years).

In 1981, Masekela moved to Botswana where he started the "Botswana International School of Music" with Dr. Khabi Mngoma. His record label, "Jive Records", helped him to set up a mobile studio in Gaborone from which came the hit single "Don´t Go Lose It Baby". In 1985, he unexpectedly had to leave for England after the South African Defence Force killed his friend George Phahle, his wife Lindi Phahle and 14 other people suspected of being terrorists.

While in England, Masekela recorded one of his greatest works, "Tomorrow", which featured his next hit, "Bring Him Back Home" (a.k.a. Mandela).

While there, Masekela also conceived, with playwright and songwriter Mbongeni Ngema, the mbaqaga musical "Sarafina", which found great success on Broadway in 1988. After touring with Paul Simon's "Graceland" - which included a number of prominent African musicians including Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Miriam Makeba - Masekela finally was able to return home, following the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990.

In 1991, Masekela launched his first tour of South Africa, called "Sekunjalo - This Is It!" with the bands Sankomota and Bayete. The extravagant four-month tour sold out throughout the country's major cities.


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