South Africa is mourning the passing of world-renowned flugelhornist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, singer Jazz musician Hugh Masekela.
He died this morning at the age of 78 in a Johannesburg hospital. He had been battling prostate cancer since 2008.
After his passing, his family released a statement that reads: 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.
“A loving father, brother, grandfather and friend, our hearts beat with profound loss. Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre, and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memory of millions across 6 continents and we are blessed and grateful to be part of a life and ever-expanding legacy of love, sharing and vanguard creativity that spans the time and space of 6 decades. Rest in power beloved, you are forever in our hearts.
“We will, in due course, release details of memorial and burial services. Hugh Masekela was someone who always engaged robustly with the press on musical and social political issues. We laud the press for respecting his privacy through his convalescence, and during this, our time of grief. Our gratitude to all and sundry for your condolences and support.”
Masekela cancelled all performing commitments last year because he needed all his energy to continue treatment for the cancer.
He was born in Witbank on April 4 1939. In 1964, Masekela got married to another South African music icon, the late Miriam Makeba and they divorced two years later. In 1999 he married Elinam Cofie.
In 2010 Masekela opened the FIFA Soccer World Cup Kick-Off Concert to a global audience and later that year he created the mesmerizing musical, Songs of Migration with director, James Ngcobo, which drew critical acclaim and played to packed houses.
He has been the pioneer of songs of Migration, visited Amsterdam, London and Washington in October 2012.
President Zuma honoured him with the highest order in South Africa: The Order of Ikhamanga, and 2011 saw Masekela received a Lifetime Achievement award at the WOMEX World Music Expo in Copenhagen.
The US Virgin Islands proclaimed ‘Hugh Masekela Day’ in March 2011, not long after Hugh joined U2 on stage during the Johannesburg leg of their 360 World Tour. U2 frontman Bono described meeting and playing with Hugh as one of the highlights of his career.
He has opened his own studio and record label, House of Masekela which has already put out its first release: Friends – a 4 CD collection of jazz standards featuring his dear friend, pianist Larry Willis.
Minster of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthetwa was one of the people who pay trubute to Masekela after news of his death broke. Writing on twitter he said:
A baobab tree has fallen, the nation has lost a one of a kind musician with the passing of Jazz legend bra Hugh Masekela. We can safely say bra Hugh was one of the great architects of Afro-Jazz and he uplifted the soul of our nation through his timeless music. #RIPBraHughMasekela pic.twitter.com/JVy47GA6aU
Masekela is and is survived by his two children Sal Masekela and Pula Twala.