Constitution Hill in Joburg partnered with the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation to produce a “people’s version” of Hugh Masekela’s hit song Thuma Mina during Heritage Month. Picture: Reuters
Constitution Hill in Joburg partnered with the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation to produce a “people’s version” of Hugh Masekela’s hit song Thuma Mina during Heritage Month. Picture: Reuters

Thuma Mina - The People’s Version evokes spirit of Bra Hugh

By Sam Spiller Time of article published Sep 13, 2020

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While South Africa faces the music, Hugh Masekela reminds us to be better with his famous song Thuma Mina. That’s the idea that led Constitution Hill in Joburg to partner with the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation to produce a “people’s version” of the hit track during Heritage Month.

The music video was released on social media platforms on Friday.

“It was a case of putting the production together and working with the video crew to get the best out of the story we were trying to tell here,” said the video’s producer, JB Arthur.

“You have a lot of grunt work here. We booked a studio where we could spend a day recording Hugh’s band in the morning and then spending the rest of the day with the brass band.

“That went incredibly well. It was an amazingly fun day. It was fun to get back together. The band played great. The brass played exceptionally great.

“Then the project went up to Constitution Hill where we spent the day getting the artists together with backing vocals. That was another fantastic day, during which the crew was filming, shooting inside and outside.”

The video features an ensemble of renowned South African musicians and vocalists, dubbed as the Masekela All-Stars. Vocalists include Abigail Kubeka and singer and songwriter, Vusi Mahlasela.

“I was really so honoured to come and be a part of this,” Mahlasela said. “It’s a really good call to the people of South Africa, that we need to be positive, to give hope.”

Other vocalists include Bongo Muffin lead singer Thandiswa Mazwai, former Freshlyground lead singer Zolani Mahola, and J’Something. A major addition to the song includes a rap section written by Masekela’s nephew Selema Writes, that calls for action against gender-based violence in South Africa.

“Hugh was always full of humour. He would have made fun out of this whole thing,” Mahlasela said. “The session was great, performing the song, it brought back quite a lot of memories, especially for me.”

Mahlasela added: “There is no other way we can lend ourselves to something that is positive. The Thuma Mina message is a positive one. All of us during Covid, we were doing different things and looking at things differently and doing different projects. I was working on my latest album, Shebeen Queen. We got off from this and made it happen. People should watch the video and download it.”

The music for the video is provided by Masekela’s last touring band, comprised of Johan Mthethwa, Fana Zulu, Cameron Ward, Godfrey Mgcina and Leeroy Sauls, a horn section from the Bombshelter Beast band, led by founder Marcus Wyatt.

The music was arranged by kwaito musician Zwai Bala. Bala said the project served as a reunion-style event for people close to Masekela.

“Hugh and I were very close, and having worked closely together, I got close to his family and business,” he explained. “When the Heritage Foundation asked me if I wanted to work on this, it was really cool. The people who were picked to take part, they all have some history or closeness to Bra Hugh, and there’s a story behind each of them. It was a really cool experience.”

Also known as Send Me, Thuma Mina debuted in 2002 and speaks to social issues such as the HIV/Aids crisis, violence, drug abuse.

Bala was confident that the message of Thuma Mina would resonate with modern audiences, and the messages therein are relevant for South Africa today.

“It’s those principles that we grew up with but lost along the way. Getting down to the bottom of things and be a participating citizen, those values that Bra Hugh’s about, those can work at any time with any generation.

“It just so happened the President uses exact text in his speeches, which means it will always resonate as a message. It can do a little more than just being a hashtag when it’s a song. Everyone wants to do their bit, and this is a great reminder with the Hugh Masekela brand and the space he owned in society.”

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