World-acclaimed jazz artist Hugh Masekela has roped in his jamming buddies from yesteryear – Tshepo Tshola and the Soul Brothers – to grace the second annual Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival in Soweto.
The festival will also see Beatenberg, Jeremy Loops, Laurie Levine and Josie Field strum their stuff before Hugh Masekela takes to the stage to share a body of music that stretches over half a century of creative input.
Explaining the inspiration behind this initiative, Masekela said: “As Africans we don’t really know who we are.
“We are the only people that imitate other cultures, and as a result we don’t sell anything, yet there is no other group that owns a richer cultural diversity of music, dance, language, architecture and history than Africa.
“We have been discouraged from being ourselves and we believe our heritage is backward, primitive, heathen and barbaric so much so that the people who inculcated this thinking in us don’t even need to work on us any more. We have our own people working on us on that.”
On the heritage festival concept, he said: “It came from wanting to recapture the old times, when there was mutual admiration between different tribal groups, when they gathered on weekends to sing and dance.
“We would then have people from the suburbs come and join in and this is the rainbow vibe I intend to create for the festival.” he said.
Headline sponsor Assupol’s Mariëtte Oosthuizen said: “Music, entertainment and good food are an integral part of this inventive festival and we are both honoured and excited to be part of it again.
“It showcases some of our brilliant local talent, which promises an even more memorable experience than last year’’
The festival, which started off last year under the theme Sekunjalo, takes place at Soweto Cricket Oval on November 29.
World-renowned jazz legend Hugh Masekela returns to Soweto with his second annual Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival.
Following the success of last year’s festival, this year pays homage to South Africa’s rich cultural heritage.
The star-studded line-up includes Tshepo Tshola, The Soul Brothers, pop trio Beatenberg, guitarist Jeremy Loops, folk singers Laurie Levine and Josie Field.
Bra Hugh is a passionate advocate for the nurturing of cultural heritage among the youth.
At the recent Hugh Masekela inaugural lecture at the University of Johannesburg, he emphasised the importance of appreciating one’s own heritage.
“We are becoming a society that imitates other cultures, yet we have the biggest diversity of heritage. It is high time that we celebrate that,” he said.
Not only is Bra Hugh a renowned solo artist who played an important part in forming a cultural voice against the apartheid regime, his iconic status in the musical arts has led him to become a critically acclaimed global brand.
Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela headlined the first concert in Carnegie Hall’s series “Ubuntu: Music and Arts of South Africa” Friday night, Oct. 10, at Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall. The concert was entitled “Twenty Years of Freedom” and was a celebration and commemoration of 20 years of constitutional democratic government following the downfall of the apartheid regime in 1994.
Also sitting in for part of the night were South African singer songwriter Dave Matthews and Somi, a singer songwriter born in Illinois of immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda.
The Ubuntu festival was produced by the Carnegie Corp. and others with support from South African Tourism and South African Airways, which were well represented in attendance among the community of friends of South Africa that gathered for the performance and the commemoration.
The Ubuntu festival will also incorporate other arts events at venues throughout the city.
The opening concert was dedicated to the triumph over apartheid, colonialism and racial discrimination and the overarching theme of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a southern African philosophy of community and roughly translates to “I am because you are.”
The Musical History of Struggle
Putting aside the songs from Masekela’s recording career dating back to his 1962 debut album “Trumpet Africaine” and through nearly 50 more albums he has released since, he and Mahlasela dedicated the evening to a historical review of South African popular music during the apartheid era in South Africa.
It began with “Meadowlands,” a gentle swing song dating back to 1956 in protest of the apartheid government’s razing of the thriving black cultural center of Sophiatown and forcibly relocating its residents to a newly developed suburb in the township of Soweto.
Masekela provided a narrative of South African history and the struggle for freedom of the native peoples since the first European incursion with the Dutch colony at Cape Town in 1652.
“For 350 years of struggle our people were never intimidated by the system,” Masekela told the audience. “We lived our lives trying to defeat the system.” In 1994 the defeat was finally achieved with the fall of the apartheid regime and the adoption of a new constitution that recognized voting rights for all South Africans.
As one of the most music-driven cultures to ever emerge on the planet, South Africa not only commemorated its history in song, it drove its revolution with song, and Masekela and Mahlasela retraced an outline of the history of the resistance to apartheid through some of the most memorable songs of the period, including Masekela’s “Bring Back Nelson Mandela” and “Stimela”, Mahlasela’s “When You Come Back”, and Johnny Klegg’s “Asimbonanga”.
Somi sat in on a performance of “Pata Pata”, a song made popular by South African singer and once wife of Masekela, Miriam Makeba, and the Swahili song “Malaika,” also recorded by Makeba.
Dave Matthews sang one of his songs and joined in on some of the others, including “Asimbonanga”. He came back to the stage for an encore singing “Sugar Man”, the song by Detroit singer-songwriter Rodriguez, which was a big hit in South Africa while remaining unknown elsewhere in the world, including the U.S., as shown in the film Searching for Sugar Man.
Carnegie’s Ubuntu festival will continue through Nov. 5 and will include performances by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, with Paul Simon sitting in, and a tribute to Miriam Makeba by Angelique Kidjo.
For those of us who came of age in the ’80s, South Africa was the human-rights cause. College campuses were filled with signs urging divestment and condemning apartheid, the South African policy of institutional segregation. If you were in high school or college around the time the Boomers were celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Love, it seemed like our generation missed out on everything . . . almost. We may not have had an unpopular quagmire of a war to oppose (we’d have to wait until the 21st century for that), but there was still South Africa. Sadly, the support of international business made it seem like their unjust system would never end. The idea that deliverance was just a few years away seemed as absurd as . . . well . . . the Berlin Wall coming down or the collapse of the Soviet Union. Prophets we certainly were not.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the end of apartheid in South Africa, and to celebrate, legendary South African musicians Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela have embarked on a cross-country tour.On Tuesday night, Masekela and Mahlasela kicked things off in the Egg’s Swyer Theater. Performing before a near-capacity crowd, the two master musicians presented what Masekela described as a “cross-section” of music from the various cultures that comprise South Africa. As was fitting, most of the music was high-energy and positive.
Masekela is perhaps most famous in this country for his watershed appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 alongside Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, Otis Redding, and the Who, as well as his 1968 soul-jazz classic “Grazing in the Grass,” which Masekela played early in the evening. In addition to his mellow golden tone on the trumpet and flugelhorn—the latter of which was on display on Tuesday—Masekela also showed off his passionate vocals as well as contributing some tasty percussion. Masekela alternated between his horn and a spirited tambourine on several numbers, and also played the hell out of the cowbell. Christopher Walken was right: You’re really gonna want that cowbell!
While perhaps not as well-known in this country as Masekela, guitar virtuoso Vusi Mahlasela proved himself well-deserving of his equal billing. He opened the show with a solo number gorgeously performed on acoustic guitar. His intricate fingerpicking made an effective contrast to his versatile voice. Mahlasela whispered like the wind through tall grass and whooped like a bird breaking the stillness of the morning. He ululated and even performed some low-frequency overtone singing.
When the rest of the band joined for the second number, the atmosphere at once turned electric. Mongezi Ntaka played the electric guitar, employing the mandolinesque technique of rapid picking associated with township jive groups like the Boyoyo Boys and popularized in the West by Paul Simon’s Graceland album and groups like Vampire Weekend. Bassist Bakithi Kumalo—who actually played on Graceland—offered up his liquid fretless bass and funky slap technique. Percussionist Francis Fuster and drummer Ian Herman wove entrancing polyrhythms that had the audience grooving.
Many of the songs were in South African languages such as Zulu, and while Masekela and Mahlasela did a fine job of explaining the meaning and importance of each song, the message ultimately came through regardless of language or cultural context. Many of the songs were celebratory. Some were angry songs of protest. But all of it spoke to the unconquered spirit of the South African people, as well as reminding us that injustice has not retreated from the Earth. In a particularly affecting moment, Mahlasela spoke of the wisdom of forgiveness. After centuries of war and invasion, oppression and abuse, the South African people have enjoyed two decades of freedom.
“We’re not perfect,” Masekela observed, “But we’re not underfoot anymore.”
The ghost of that word—its history, injustices and the need, for some, to move beyond it—is ubiquitous in the music of South Africa, a nation for whom music and politics are inextricably linked.
This year, the 20th anniversary of South African democracy’s beginning and apartheid’s end, Carnegie Hall wrestles with that legacy in an ambitious, month-long festival dedicated to the music and culture of South Africa. The programming ranges from jazz and classical to traditional and pop, and includes both South African stars—the male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and jazz greats Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim —and music rarely heard in the U.S., like that from the Cape Malay community, based in Cape Town. Paul Simon and Dave Matthews, who was born in South Africa, will also make appearances.
The festival, whose events take place at Carnegie and partner organizations including the Paley Center and Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, begins Wednesday and runs through Nov. 5.
Geographically themed festivals have been a Carnegie mainstay since 2007; recent festivals have been dedicated to Latin America and Vienna.
Africa, however, “had been conspicuously absent from the festival map,” Carnegie’s director of artistic planning, Jeremy Geffen, said in his office, which houses a menagerie of beaded South African figurines.
“We wanted to look at an African culture that had a really broad diversity,” he said. “Not just in terms of the ethnic makeup, but in terms of the stylistic diversity that would support a really in-depth examination.”
South Africa fit the bill. Carnegie dubbed the festival “Ubuntu,” a Nguni word commonly translated as “I am because you are.”
“Ubuntu is about humanity, kindness, love, compassion, respect, unity,” said the singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela. “It’s also about forgiveness.”
Mr. Mahlasela, nicknamed “The Voice,” is a longtime anti-apartheid advocate. “With African democracy we say, ‘Invite everybody,’” he said. “Not just important people and business people, like other democracy outside Africa. We don’t leave anybody out.”
But concert curating, unlike democracy, must leave out somebody.
“Right now there is so much effort in South Africa in giving voice to people who didn’t have it,” said Mr. Geffen, who was born in South Africa and cast his first ballot in 1994, from Los Angeles. “So they are extremely politically correct. If we had left this in the hands of South Africans, they would have gone much more evenhandedly through to make sure that everyone was given a shot.”
He added, “that’s where as an outside curatorial voice, you have the opportunity to shape something.”
Much of what Carnegie Hall has shaped revolves around the voice, to which Mr. Geffen said South Africans are uniquely attached.
Two classical sopranos, Pretty Yende and Elza van den Heever, make their New York recital debuts. In addition to traditional Western fare, Ms. van den Heever will sing art songs by South African composers, in Afrikaans.
“When I left South Africa in 1998, I found myself really longing for South African songs, for my own language,” said Ms. van den Heever, recalling the joy of finding recordings of South African soprano Mimi Coertse. “She’s in a great way responsible for me wanting to keep these songs alive.”
Programming at other venues includes art by William Kentridge and a concert of current South African pop stars at the Apollo Theater.
The festival is unusual for bringing a broad swath of South African music onto one of the world’s most hallowed stages, and commendable for going beyond black and white and including the mixed-race choirs of the Cape Malay community, said Carol Muller, a University of Pennsylvania ethnomusicologist who was born in South Africa.
“But it is an unbelievably male perspective,” she said. “Where are all the South African women?”
Of the 18 concerts presented by Carnegie, only three are headlined by women: those of the two classical sopranos and that of the Grammy-winning singer Angélique Kidjo, who is from Benin. (A Carnegie spokesman said its festivals don’t strive to be encyclopedic.)
Ms. Kidjo’s concert pays tribute to the South African singer Miriam Makeba, a civil-rights activist and Ms. Kidjo’s personal mentor, credited with spreading African music internationally.
“Music is the most powerful tool to empower people,” said Ms. Kidjo. “How much political speech makes anybody happy? What gives people more political empowerment than music?”
“Ubuntu: Music and Arts of South Africa” runs Wednesday through Nov. 5 at Carnegie Hall and other venues: 212-247-7800 carnegiehall.org
One of Africa’s most legendary and celebrated musicians, Hugh Masekela, this last weekend fulfilled a long standing wish and visited the burial place of his old friend, Zimbabwe’s iconic Mbira musician, Dumisani Maraire.
Masekela, who was meant to headline the postponed Harare Jazz Festival on September 13, could have cancelled his trip to Zimbabwe, but insisted that the other parts of his programme in the country were just as important.
He told Zimbo Jam, “I have been meaning to visit Dumi’s grave for many years, but never got the chance to. This is a special trip for me.”
He explained how he met Chiwoniso when she was still a little child. “Dumi and I met in Seattle in 1970 and that’s where I also met his daughter Chiwoniso when she was still a little baby.”
Dumi Maraire is famous for taking mbira music to the USA and starting a cultural movement that lives on to this day.
Dumi was born in Mutare, on December 27, 1944. He began learning music from family members, and later at the college of music in Bulawayo. Maraire taught from 1968 through 1972 at the University of Washington in Seattle, where Chiwoniso was born.
He remained in the region throughout until 1982, teaching at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, giving private music lessons, performing in Pacific Northwest cities and in British Columbia with several marimba groups he founded.
He passed away on November 25, 1999 and was buried at the Maraire family homestead in Chakohwa Village, Mutambara in the Chimanimani area of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands.
When his daughter, Chiwoniso, died on July 24, 2013, she was to be buried next to her father.
On Saturday, September 13, 2014 , Bra Hugh Masekela fulfilled his long term wish to visit the resting place of his two friends. He was accompanied by members of the Maraire Familiy, including renowned Neurosurgeon and Mbira Month chairperson, Nozipho Maraire. Also with him were some of his Zimbabwean friends, Sam Mataure, Victor Kunonga and Walter Wanyanya.
Bra Hugh wiped dust of Dumi’s grave before laying flowers on it. He also laid flowers on Chi’s grave which is yet to be built up. “Rest in peace,” he said.
Then, after a few moments of bowed heads, Bra Hugh took out his trumpet and played a song for his departed friends.
Later on, after the dust from the Chimanimani trip had settled, Bra Hugh revealed that his great grandfather was from Zimbabwe. “My great grand father was from here. His name name was Munyepawo – which is our real surname. These borders that separate our countries are articifial,” he averred.
Last week, the inaugural Hugh Masekela Lecture was held at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus, and another great Zimbabwean friend of Bra Hugh’s, musical icon Oliver Mtukudzi, gave the lecture.
While he is in Zimbabwe, Bra Hugh will continue the recording a musical project that he started with Chiwoniso while she was still alive. He leaves on Wednesday.
Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi was full of praise for South African counterpart and music legend Hugh “Bra Hugh” Masekela, saying the trumpeter was proud of his African identity.
In his inaugural lecture held on Tuesday at the University of Johannesburg during the Annual Hugh Masekela Lecture, the Zimbabwean music icon hailed Bra Hugh for staying true to his African roots.
The prepared lecture was availed to The Herald Entertainment yesterday.
“As I was preparing this lecture, looking at Hugh’s life – the challenges, the failures and the successes – I realised something.
“At this time in history, when we as Africans are being challenged in so many ways as we try to strike a balance between taking up more and more of Western culture versus holding on to the things that give us our identity; our languages, our values, our music, our dances, our way of dealing with conflict, our sisterhood and our brotherhood; we need people who can remind us what it is to struggle, to fight, and to win in the end – and do so without giving up our identity as Africans,” Mtukudzi said.
Delivering a paper titled “How do you measure the impact of a man?” Mtukudzi or simply Tuku to his fans, said Bra Hugh’s worth could not be measured according to accolades, fame or fortune but his humanity.
“Each time I meet Hugh, his music, his status as a legend and his accolades, have grown. But he as a person, his humanity, what we call in Shona “unhu” or as you would say here “ubuntu bakhe” – remains the same.
“If you approach him as a celebrity, yes you get the celebrity, the man who is trying to deal with a fan – but I have seen over and over again the magic that happens when people approach him as another human being.
“He responds to them like a father, like a brother; with humility, with warmth – except if you’re wearing a weave. As we all know Bra Hugh does not like weaves,” he jokingly said.
Tuku, however, said that it was important to ask “what has my real contribution been?” and “how will my life be measured?” for people to measure the impact of a man or woman.
“You measure someone not by how much they have done, or how many awards they have received, or how many degrees they have.
“Instead, you measure people by what they overcame to achieve those things, because that tells you the story of their strength of character. Or to put it differently, whether they are of sterner stuff or not.
“At a time when we see so much moral bankruptcy, where our continent cries out for answers and solutions, we need more than ever before men and women of character.
“As we fight to hold on to our heritage and to our continental dreams and the key ingredients that unite and identify us as Africans, we need men and women of character,” Tuku said.
Tuku first met Hugh Masekela in 1983 in Bulawayo.
By that time, Tuku was already a professional musician. Tuku had been following Bra Hugh’s work as well as respected his talent.
The two would exchange notes and then moved on with their lives.
It was only three years later that Tuku began to grasp some key aspects of Bra Hugh’s character.
“I was performing at a club called Job’s Night Spot in Harare. Bra Hugh was in the audience, and from nowhere he jumped up on stage and joined me and my band.
His energy, his laughter, his aura, his naughty smile were all so infectious.
“Our friendship has developed very steadily over the years and we have become serious fans of each other’s work.
We have performed on stage together many times and just last month in August stepped into the studio together for the first time – a dream come true for me.”
When Hugh Masekela finished his Oppikoppi set to rapturous applause, a member of his crew wrapped a champion’s belt around his waist as if he was an undisputed heavyweight boxer.
He certainly played like a champ, with the agility and enthusiasm to match the young crowd he was playing for on the James Phillips stage on Saturday afternoon.
His hit single Thanayi, which closed the show, was a favourite and when he had taken the bow, the loud chants of “we want more” prompted him to return to the stage for a sing-a-long chorus.
But it was not just the young adults who loved him. One man walked away saying, “I feel good. My heart is connected again.”
Unfortunately local hip-hop star Cassper Nyovest’s 7pm performance on the Red Bull stage coincided with that of headliner Aloe Blacc, who was impressive with just keys, drums, sax and a guitarist backing him. In fact the American singer-songwriter’s only misstep was when, slap-bang in the middle of Northam in Limpopo, he told the crowd he was pleased to be playing in Johannesburg, except he was 250km from the City of Gold.
Songs off his latest album, Lift Your Spirit, proved most popular, particularly Soldier in the City, Wanna Be with You, Red Velvet Seat, and the smash hit Wake Me Up, which he co-wrote.
Blacc spoke extensively about spreading love and happiness.
This was the popular music festival’s 20-year anniversary, and the lineup struck a balance between mature and young – from Cat Power and Springbok Nude Girls to PHFAT, The Muffinz and Spoek Mathambo.
On each of the three nights, the Red Bull stage hosted many a drunk reveller – most of whom landed on their backs on the slippery surface.
The University of York awarded 16 honorary degrees to Nobel Laureates, authors, scientists, humanitarians,musicians and activist Hugh Masekela. He is among 16 people to receive honorary doctorates at the University’s graduation ceremonies over the past three days.
Every year, the University confers honorary degrees on people who have made a significant contribution to society. Honorary graduates are selected from nominations by members of the University and often have existing links with academic departments or are York alumni.
A trumpeter, flugelhornist, singer and defiant political voice of international repute who remains deeply connected to his home country.
His eclectic musical style is pervaded by jazz and mbaqanga combined with a gravelly voice, stirringly smooth horn sound and an ever-present concern for his home country and continent. He recently founded his own music label, House of Masekela, under which he released his latest album ‘Playing @ Work’.
Born in Witbank, South Africa in 1939, he was given a trumpet at age 14 by Louis Armstrong and is still blowing strong at 75. He spent much of his life in exile during which time he released over 40 albums and was featured on countless more. He has been honoured in numerous ways such as receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at WOMEX, being granted a Gold Medal of the Order of Ikhamanga in 2010 by the South African government and having 18 March proclaimed ‘Hugh Masekela Day’ in the US Virgin Islands. York University honors Bra Hugh with his second honorary doctorate, the first coming from the Vaal University of Technology in 2011.
Dr Hugh Masekela received the award this morning during a graduation ceremony in University hall where he electrified students and academics with his words and music.
He is awarded alongside:
Nobel Prize Winner Professor Sir James Mirrlees
Executive Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park (named UK Museum of the Year), Peter Murray CBE
Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi-American humanitarian, entrepreneur, author, filmmaker and media commentator who has dedicated herself to international women’s rights and freedom;
Distinguished author, Mairi MacInnes;
Professor Derek Pearsall
Professor Ahmed Zewail
Professor Padmanabhan Balaram
Professor Bertrand Meyer
Professor Paulo Gadelha
Professor Anne Treisman
Professor Mike Kelly
Dr Susanna Moorehead