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Hugh Masekela is Now Taking the Literary Route

Photograph by Mabuti Kali

Sowetan
By Edward Tsumele

Photograph by Mabuti Kali

World-renowned South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, who has just returned from a very successful tour of Europe, Ghana and Nigeria, is going literary.

Masekela, whose latest album Jabulani rates as one of his best, will publish a novel just in time for next Easter.

He told Sowetan yesterday it took him 13 years to complete the novel, titled Honky.

“This is going to be a Johannesburg thriller that readers will not be able to put down,” Masekela said.

“Honky is about a successful black musician just back from exile. He likes performing around the country. Then one day, while returning from a performance, he gives a white woman a lift to her home in Killarney. The woman is found dead the next day. The person who was last seen with her is Honky, whose real name is Sir Holonko. For now that is all I am prepared to say about Honky,” he said.

A few years ago he published a controversial biography , but Honky is his first work of fiction.

He said that there would be more novels from him in the future.

The trumpeter’s musical repertoire is diverse and he is comfortable playing jazz, original compositions as well as African folk music.

He said his recent tour of Europe took him to the UK, Germany and Spain.

Having played music for over half a century, taking him from Sophiatown’s cultural melting pot to England, the US, Nigeria, Ghana and Guinea, Masekela is probably our foremost South African musical export. And he is increasingly in demand overseas.

Asked about whether he would consider slowing down, Masekela said: “Music is my life. I cannot retire from myself. This is my job. I have always been involved with music in one form or another. I have never worked for anyone in my life.

“Well, there are other things that I am involved in such as HIV education and I am also involved in heritage restoration.

“We South Africans are fast losing our culture and heritage as a people. One day, with the way young people are losing touch with where we come from, we should not be surprised when our children say: ‘We used to be African. It is so tragic that it’s not funny the way and manner in which our rich culture is being forgotten’,” Masekela lamented.

See more articles about Hugh Masekela

Hugh Masekela: His Rock and Roll Redemption

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Rolling Stone
By Miles Keylock

“Pussy is the gateway to the earth. But we disrespect it… What guy hasn’t treated his lady badly by fucking around, huh?” Hugh Masekela’s eyes dart out into space, challenging, daring his audience to agree. Silence. Then a tentative show of hands from his entourage. “Huh-huh-huh!” His baritone chuckle cascades from deep in his diaphragm. The 72-year-old Bra is shooting the breeze, taking five between laying down some choice new jazz joints in his studio. This kind of call-and-response is typical of Masekela. “Jazz” isn’t some suave Wynton Marsalis head trip into classical museum music. It’s worshipping at the altar of pussy. It’s the gateway to heaven. It’s reanimating those old-time speakeasy swearwords: backdoor men and badass women baring “Body & Soul” in ecstatic ejaculation. All that jazz. It’s a celebration of living life to the fullest. It’s giving it horns, dipping your instrument directly into the gut, bypassing any objective intellectual cool and mainlining unspeakable, unsavoury states – love’s fires, rage’s boiling mud, shame’s hot cauldron – into something valuable, intrinsically beautiful, danceable. For Bra Hugh jazz is rock’n’roll.

One of the last survivors of South Africa’s Golden Age of Jazz, Masekela’s been typecast as a grandfather figure. To see him this way is to misunderstand his legacy. Forget “Grazing in the Grass”. Try carnivorous cocaine nights, compulsive copulation, countless hangovers, hangers-on, haters, lovers, years of exile, fear, self-loathing and yes, eventually, redemption.

His music carries the DNA of a life lived over the top and constantly on the edge. Over the past six decades he’s been there, done that. In New York in the 1960s he jived with Miles Davis, met Malcolm X and befriended Marvin Gaye. He jammed with reggae prophet Bob Marley in Jamaica, nightclub-crawled with guitar god Jimi Hendrix and freebased with hedonistic funk superstar Sly Stone in Los Angeles. He got bust. The FBI had him under surveillance. He didn’t give a shit. He told judges to get lost and press reporters where to get off. His career bummed out. He reinvented himself and invented “World Music”. He got bust again. He blew off the big time and the Big Apple. He holed up with Fela Kuti and rocked the high life with the Hedzoleh Sounds in Lagos. He gave boxing guru Don King shit about Ali and Foreman’s Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire. He gave himself even more shit by continuing to get hooked up in all kinds of crazy capers, including gold-and-grass smuggling in Liberia and staying on the shit for decades.

But what makes Bra Hugh a real rock star is that he’s survived. He’s defied rock’n’roll’s death-trip prescript: rocked against the odds; rolled with the existential shriek, the oppressive cacophony, the repressed yowl and the fear-turned-fury that threatened to kill him. He understands it. He’s lived it. But more importantly, he’s re-heard it as music: one harmonious, affirmative rupture.

“I’m lucky to be sitting here and talking to you about it,” says Masekela. “The saddest thing that happened to South Africa is that it was illegal for Africans to drink liquor in this country until 1961. So drinking became not only a form of resistance, but also a form of defiance.”

This is an excerpt of the cover story from the December 2011 issue of Rolling Stone South Africa. To read the rest of this story, subscribe to the magazine here.

Hugh Masekela Wins Womex Lifetime Achievement Award

Photo by Chris Saunders

WOMEX 11 Artist Award

WOMEX
By Colin Bass

Photo by Chris Saunders

WOMEX is proud to announce the winner of the WOMEX 11 Artist Award: Hugh Masekela, the trumpet prodigy, fiery denouncer of Apartheid and Afro-jazz pioneer from South Africa.

He will perform on Sunday morning, 30 October 2011, during the WOMEX Awards Ceremony accompanied by a WOMEX Networking Breakfast, both open to WOMEX delegates only. The laudation will be offered by Francis Gay, Head of Music at WDR Funkhaus Europa in Cologne, Germany.

It’s been nearly 60 years since Hugh Masekela first picked up a trumpet, and we can all rejoice that he shows no sign of putting it down yet. It was the instrument that helped him find his voice to sound out against the injustice and suffering inflicted on millions of South Africans by apartheid and it helped him break out during those dark days to bring a musical communiqué to the rest of the world.

The emblematic figure of South African music has indeed become an elder statesman, revered and respected for his tireless championing of his country’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. But, as his commitment, energy and constant quest to refine his musical language show, he is also still the young lion who pioneered new directions in South African jazz in the late ’50s, escaped to New York in the ’60s and who took the roots-flavoured hit Grazing in the Grass to the top of the US charts in 1968. Since then he’s created an impressive body of work that journeys through jazz, pop, funk, afro-beat, reggae, fusion and more, yet always retains the immediately recognizable Masekela signature. And that’s because he has never lost sight of where he’s coming from. The sounds of the townships: jive, church choirs, children’s games, gumboot dances, work-songs, marabi, kwela and the mighty mbaqanga; all these expressions of the great multi-layered cultural tapestry of South Africa provide the spiritual foundations of his art and have remained a constant motif within the music.

After a decade of living in the USA, the 70’s saw the beginning of a long journey home, moving to Guinea, Liberia and Ghana, releasing a string of albums exploring Afro-beat, jazz and soul music. In 1981 he moved to Botswana and founded a music school and a mobile recording studio, which produced the global disco hit, Don’t Go Lose it, Baby. But dark forces were still at work in South Africa and in 1985, the nefarious cross-border activities of South African Defence Force death squads prompted a retreat to England. There he recorded Bring Him Back Home, a rousing, anthemic demand for Nelson Mandela’s freedom, and set off on Paul Simon’s Graceland tour alongside Miriam Makeba and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, taking this message to millions around the world.

The inevitable collapse of the apartheid regime came with Mandela’s release in 1990 and Masekela finally returned home. Although, as a cultural spokesman and musical ambassador, his part in the struggle for freedom has been considerable, he modestly defers praise. As he has said: “The heroes of South Africa are the people who faced the guns and the tanks and sacrificed their lives for us to be free today. I think those are the people that should be praised, we don’t hear too much of them”. But it’s through culture that we can perceive the abstract truths of our humanity, and Hugh Masekela’s art is permeated with the spirit of the struggle. Today, at 72 years young, Hugh Masekela is more productive than ever. He’s still touring, recording, collaborating and educating. He is concerned with what he calls heritage restoration: the continuing necessity of changing the mindset inculcated in his people by religion and oppression over centuries that their deep cultural heritage is primitive and pagan. So, the struggle continues, and we can hope that Hugh Masekela will continue to play his considerable part in sounding out his messages of peace, pride and progress, for many years to come.

MAAPSA – Musicians & Artists Assistance Programme of South Africa

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Along with his WOMEX Artist Award, Hugh Masekela will be given money to put into a project of his own choice.

After battling his own 44-year addiction, legendary South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela founded MAAPSA – Musicians & Artists Assistance Programme of South Africa. It was launched in October 1998 to raise funds, fight substance abuse, and provide support to artists and performers in need of help and guidance to overcome addiction. MAAPSA is a non-profit organisation that has assisted many leading South African entertainers, including Kabelo and Tsepo Tshola, as well as dozens of ordinary people who come from an artistic background. It offers referrals to rehabilitation treatment centres, after care, intervention, counselling, guidance lectures, and fundraising campaigns to cover treatment bills and administration salaries. MAAPSA provides free advisory services to guide those in need of help and now boasts a 70 percent successful recovery rate.

Masekela says, “The one thing that I think all musicians who have recovered from addiction of any kind have found, is that support from people who understand the specific challenges of addiction in the entertainment industry was crucial in helping them emerge into sobriety. Alcohol and drug dependence are destroying our great nation.”

Now in its 13th year, MAAPSA continues to grow from strength to strength and is now looking to partner similar international organisations.

Hugh Masekela Receives Vaal University Doctorate

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BIZCOMMUNITY

Hugh Masekela was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Human Sciences at this year’s Vaal University of Technology Spring Graduation. Masekela received the doctorate at a special graduation ceremony on Thursday, 15 September, 2011.

This comes after Masekela was nominated by the university to receive an Honourary Doctorate for the role he played locally and internationally in arts and also in activism against apartheid.

Masekela who skipped the country to exile after the 1959 Sharpeville Massacre has won many awards both for his musical role and also for his anti-apartheid activism. He was recently awarded the “Order of Ikhamanga in Gold” by the current South African President, Jacob Zuma. He also had the honour of having two days, 18 and 19 March being proclaimed the “Hugh Masekela Day” by Governor De Jongh of the Virgin Islands.

Risked his musical career

Vice-chancellor and principal of Vaal University of Technology, Professor Irene Moutlana said the extraordinary role played by Masekela both musically and politically cannot be easily avoided. “This is one of the few South African musicians who risked their musical careers by spreading the message of peace, harmony and unity, and also about the conditions of apartheid in this country,” she explained.

Moutlana added that the university is pleased to be among the institutions and individuals who had the opportunity to recognize the role played by Masekela in the South African political landscape.

“Masekela is our icon and an ambassador and, therefore, we as citizens of this country are the ones who should be quick to appreciate such heroes before they get recognition elsewhere,” she said. “With this honour that we are conferring on him, we wish to inspire all youths to discover their talents and passion and also to nurture it to the heights that our celebrity has accomplished,” she added.

Hugh Masekela wins WOMEX Award for Artists 2011

womex

World Music Network

HUGH MASEKELA WINS WOMEX AWARD FOR ARTISTS 2011

WOMEX have announced that this year’s Award for Artists goes to Hugh Masekela, the trumpet prodigy, fiery denouncer of Apartheid and Afro-jazz pioneer from South Africa.

Since its introduction in 1999, the WOMEX Award has been honouring high points of world music on the international level. Musical excellence, social importance, commercial success, political impact, lifetime achievement – any or all of these might make one a worthy recipient. In Hugh Masekela’s case, it’s a definite ‘all’!

Masekela has had a remarkable career since he first picked up a trumpet more than half a century ago, and (thankfully) he shows no sign of putting it down. It was the instrument that helped him find his voice to sound out against the injustice and suffering inflicted on millions of South Africans by Apartheid, and it helped him break out during those dark days to bring a musical communiqué to the rest of the world. From success in the US pop charts in the 60s, through the Afro-jazz experiments of the 70s, returning to Africa and touring with Paul Simon in the 80s and on until today, he has not stopped releasing albums, touring the world and engaging in new collaborative projects. At 72 years young, to paraphrase one of his album titles, the boy’s still doin’ it!

He will perform on 30 October during the WOMEX Award Ceremony (open to WOMEX delegates only). The laudation will be offered by Francis Gay, Head of Music at WDR Funkhaus Europa in Cologne, Germany.

Hugh Masekela: Celebrate Mama Afrika – Review

PHOTO: COURTESY OF SARAH LEE FOR THE GUARDIAN

Guardian (UK)
By Robin Denselow

PHOTO: COURTESY OF SARAH LEE FOR THE GUARDIAN

This wasn’t the first London concert to celebrate the music of Africa’s first and greatest superstar Miriam Makeba, but it was the most emotional and pertinent, for the man in charge was her first husband, Hugh Masekela. He did her justice with an adventurous revue that was far more joyous than the Barbican’s Mama Africa tribute two years ago, thanks to the wildly enthusiastic audience, the venue and the lineup. This was another Barbican presentation, but staged in the intimate Hackney Empire, an ideal setting for Masekela, and dominated by young South Africans who showed how Makeba’s legacy survives in a very different post-apartheid climate. It was Masekela who opened, backed by his five-piece band, with a fine display of singing, flugelhorn work and energetic dancing – remarkable for a man of 72 – before being joined by three younger singers who provided the backing for his rousing treatment of Khawuleza, the story of police raids on illegal shebeens. Then he stood back, joining the other singers, dancing, providing occasional horn solos, and acting as an enthusiastic MC, as they reinterpreted Makeba’s blend of township jive and political balladry.

The variety was impressive, with the burly Vusi Mahlasela switching from acrobatic and soulful improvisation, backed by solo guitar, to a stomping treatment of the dance hit Pata Pata.

Then came Thandiswa, proving why she is South Africa’s finest female contemporary singer with a powerful set that included a delicate Meet Me at the River. Lira, who followed, started with more conventional western pop/R&B before switching to a pained and original Soweto Blues, co-written by Masekela, who closed this intriguing show. Makeba once complained to me, “Our young singers want to sound American.” Maybe, but here was proof that the great South African vocal tradition lives on.

Masekela a Musical Force

Ottawa Citizen
By Chris Cobb

PHOTO: COURTESY OF BRUNO SCHLUMBERGER
PHOTO: COURTESY OF BRUNO SCHLUMBERGER

Brave crowd enjoys what was arguably best show of the festival

Once Hugh Masekela and his ensemble are in the groove, it’s a musical ride like no other.

Too bad the brief electrical storm scared so many people away from the Ottawa Jazzfest Tuesday evening.

When all is said and done, it will doubtless make the list as one of the best concerts of the rain-sodden festival.

While the crowd thickened as the concert progressed, at 1,500 it was tiny compared to the big three shows that went before – Robert Plant, k.d. lang and Elvis Costello. (Lang clocked more than 11,000.)

Masekela’s unique blend of traditional African rhythms and sub-Saharan jazz – delivered with lyrics that dig deep down to his African roots – is as multi-dimensional as he is multicultural.

Now 72, the South African-born horn player (and passionate vocalist) is at a stage in his distinguished career where the lifetime mélange of African, British and U.S. musical educations and influences is refined to a point where it might well be called Masekela, like reggae is reggae, jazz is jazz and pop is pop.

Indeed, Masekela music contains bits of each of those comparisons and more.

He played with Bob Marley in the formative years, listened and absorbed much from the U.S. jazz greats and travelled with Paul Simon on the Graceland tour bus.

He is notably more self-effacing.

“I am not the kind of musician you hear saying my music,” he told one U.S. newspaper. “I don’t think I have music. I think everybody gets music from the community they come from. Every note I play, every song that I’ve ever worked on is really from the people.”

Onstage, Masekela is equally at home among his fun-loving, energetic African audiences as he is playing to the more reverential jazz crowd in North America.

His music makes you move, from whichever direction you approach it.

The one benefit of a smaller crowd was that those preferring to stand and dance a little didn’t have to stand in the distance behind the mass of lawn chairs to do it. Those who chose to remain sitting were dancing on the inside.

Masekela has performed with all imaginable combinations of dancers, choirs and big bands, but his current touring ensemble is half a dozen, including himself at keyboards, bass, percussion, drums and guitars.

A tight, skilled bunch for sure, but most important, they were clearly having a good time.

It was infectious and a fitting reward for those who braved the elements.

Jazz review: Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl

Los Angeles Times
By Chris Barton

PHOTO: COURTESY OF GARY FRIEDMAN / LOS ANGELES TIMES
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” [LINK http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/02/music-review-wynton-marsalis-swing-symphony-with-leonard-slatkin-jazz-at-lincoln-center-orchestra-a.html] 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

Africa Review
By Billie Odidi

PHOTO: COURTESY OF ROCK PAPER SCISSOR
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.

South African jazz after apartheid: Looking for a new direction

The Christian Science Monitor
By Scott Baldauf

Hugh Masekela (l.) and Nigerian singer Femi Kuti performed during the opening ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup last June in South Africa.  Alexander Joe/Newscom/File
Hugh Masekela (l.) and Nigerian singer Femi Kuti performed during the opening ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup last June in South Africa.
Alexander Joe/Newscom/File

Johannesburg, South Africa

It’s one of those historical ironies that haunts Hugh Masekela, that the good times for South African music were also the bad times for political freedom.

For the bulk of his musical career, playing jazz bars and township community halls, Mr. Masekela honed his skills as his country’s preeminent jazz fluegelhornist under a hated system of apartheid that treated him as a second-class citizen because of the color of his skin.

Music was more than entertainment then: It was a coping mechanism for an oppressed people; it was a mode of free expression of political views; it was a chance for communities to gather together and draw strength from each other.

The streets of Egoli – the Zulu name for Johannesburg, because of the gold found there – were as lively as New Orleans’ French Quarter, New York’s East Village, or the Left Bank in Paris.

Many of South Africa’s greatest artists – including Masekela, Abdullah Ibrahim, Miriam Makeba – eventually moved out of South Africa in the early 1960s, exiled for their political views. It was in exile that the soundtrack of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid was written, and captured the attention of the rest of the world.

Freedom – with the 1994 election of President Nelson Mandela – should have signaled a golden age for South African music, says Masekela, in a recent interview.

“When I came back here in 1990, this place was jumping, and Hillbrow [Johannesburg’s inner city] was where it was at. And now I don’t know if there is anywhere that groups can develop and hone their skills, because there’s nowhere for them to do it,” says Masekela. “I think that my advice would be for the arts community to become creative and not expect handouts, because they are not coming.”

The day the music died

The euphoria of freedom has faded a bit after 17 years, but few South Africans would trade today’s freedoms for the apartheid years. Even so, freedom did bring casualties. And 1994, in a way, was the day the music died. Jazz clubs suffered from the influx of rural migrants and foreign immigrants, crammed into tiny apartments by greedy landlords in the cheaper areas where jazz clubs tended to situate.

Jazz aficionados found that freedom gave them other options, including moving out of all-black neighborhoods into the middle-class white neighborhoods where they were now allowed to live.

In this fertile time of hope, there was a kind of desperation among those who remained hopeless, and crime began to take away the nightlife that South Africans had once taken for granted.

Take a drive through the once-hopping commercial districts of Hillbrow, Yeoville, Orange Grove, and Berea, and you’ll see the clubs and jazz bars replaced by corner stores and pawnshops, car-repair shops and funeral parlors, all of them safe behind iron security bars. Newtown in the city center is making a comeback, along with the Bassline and the Market Theater and the newly renovated jazz bar Kippies, but the days of barhopping from club to club, lured by the sound of bebop or mbaqanga, those days are gone.

Born in 1939 in the rural town of Witbank, outside Pretoria, Masekela saw South Africa’s music scene at its peak, and in the late 1990s, in its time of decline. These days, an artist of Masekela’s stature can tour the world, filling concert halls with fans eager to hear hits like “Bring Back Nelson Mandela” or “Sarafina” or the haunting “Coal Train,” which tells the story of working conditions in South Africa’s coal mines. But what about younger artists who are just getting started?

“It really is a pity, because there is so much great talent here that won’t have a chance to develop unless they have a place where they can incubate their capabilities,” says Masekela.

As a jazz artist, Masekela tries to reach out to new talent. He listens to the CDs of promising young musicians and singers while driving his car. Some artists go with him on tour, like the socially conscious singer Thandiswe Mazwai or the young a capella group Complete.

Musicians still make money, Mase­kela says, but club owners are generally happy just to hire a DJ with a turntable, rather than a band with instruments and other equipment. Club owners also seem to prefer artists who are noncontroversial, rather than those who write and perform protest songs, or as Masekela calls them, “songs of concern.”

“The establishment anywhere in the world is not crazy about songs of concern, and in a country where politics reigns supreme, songs of concern are seen as no good,” Masekela says. “It’s easier to just have a guy saying ‘hey, ho, hey, ho,’ ” he laughs, mimicking hip-hop artists.

So for musicians who play live music, Masekela suggests that artists simply create their own venues, book their own tours, and take music back to where it began, out in the townships.

“I think you’d have to come back old-style. You have to go back to how it was done in the home communities, playing in community halls,” says Masekela.

Advice on rebuilding audiences

Musicians need to become their own promoters, going out to the townships, booking community halls, hiring local people to put up advertisements and bring in the crowd. “The money was less, but you worked all the time. And then you build an audience for your music.”

It’s hard to start things over, Masekela admits, but he isn’t the kind of man to dwell on negatives.

“South Africa is the most beautiful country in the world, and the people, their expectation was high after freedom because they were promised so much,” says Masekela. But people, and especially artists, can’t afford to wait for politicians to bring back the arts scene, if only because “things they were promised are happening extremely slowly, if at all.”

The key is to take music out to where people are. “In the end, music needs to be in the communities where people live,” Masekela says. “Artists need to get creative.”