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Hugh Masekela Trumpets Wedding Songs

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BBC News

Legendary South African trumpeter and singer Hugh Masekela has recorded 28 albums but, according to him, only in the most recent one, Jabulani, all the songs are happy ones.

The man who was once married to singer Miriam Makeba and now has a Ghanaian wife dedicates this CD to wedding songs from his native country.

But he told the BBC Africa’s Leslie Goffe in the United States, where he has been promoting the album, that the happiness it exudes is not only a reflection of his personal joy but also of the way South Africa has been changing in the last two decades.

“From 1653 until 1994 South Africa was at war… If you have war, when are you gonna have time for love songs?” he said.

To hear the interview click here

Hugh Masekela and Listen 2 Africa

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Hugh Masekela: How the Listen 2 Africa Label Is Hooking Up a 73-Year Old Jazz & World Music Heritage Artist

Billboard
by Tad Hendrickson

Soccer fans remember ESPN’s coverage of the FIFA World Cup in 2010. The obnoxious vuvuzela horns that prompted some TV watchers to turn down the volume, but there was also an insightful pieces called ‘Umlando ­ Through My Father’s Eyes.’ Here ESPN correspondent Sal Masekela (often found working the X Games) did a series of ten intimate 4-5 minute segments revolving around his legendary father Hugh Masekela’s return to various spots around South African that he remembered from growing up as well as what life was like back then under Apartheid.

Exiled in 1961 as part of an Apartheid campaign, Hugh Masekela moved to the U.S. worked as a jazz bandleader and had a hit with groovy pop instrumental ‘Grazing in the Grass’ in 1968, which shot to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 and the album ‘Promise of a Future’ went on sell over 4 million copies worldwide.

Even before the World Cup exposure, the flugelhorn and cornet player had grown to become a global jazz and world music icon. He remains active and now returns with a varied collection of traditional South African wedding songs called Jabulani. So even though Maselkela will play in front 15,000 on the main stage of this year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival in March, the 73-year-old star needed some fresh thinking about how to reach his international audience using both traditional and modern tools.

Enter the label Listen 2 Africa, which is part of recently launched endeavor called Listen 2 Entertainment Group helmed by Dave Love that offers management, publishing (Buntz Music ASACP & Música De Amor BMI), production services, consulting, administration and tour support. Listen 2’s boutique label has also put out high profile releases by South African act Ladysmith Black Mambazo as well as smooth jazz artists like Candy Dulfer and straight ahead jazz people like Michael Brecker.

Love released Masekela’s ‘Revival’ in 2005 when he oversaw the Heads Up label from 1989 to 2009 when Concord, who bought Heads Up and its sister company Telarc in 2005, moved operations to its offices in L.A.

During his time at Heads Up, Love worked with smooth jazz artists like Marion Meadows, more straight ahead musicians like Esperanza Spalding (who was one of his last signings for the label) as well as South African artists.

According to Love, “When I had Heads Up one of he things I tried to do from a musical standpoint was to be diversified and provide an entertainment that was adult orientated ­ it was jazz, traditional jazz, contemporary jazz, fusion and then world music.”

Through work with George Duke, Stanley Clarke and Take 6, Love has gown his databases of Adult African American audiences. Love also worked with NPR to grow the audience as he sought to introduce or reintroduce these South African acts to consumers.

When things changed with Heads Up, Love wasn’t certain that he wanted to get back into the record business. He was enjoying his non-label ventures ­ Love is also partner in Innovative Entertainment Solutions, a web based marketing company specializing in e-commerce, which provides artists and companies the ability to sell digital and physical products through their own branded store.

But the opportunity presented itself when his former artists came looking for his expertise to help guide their careers on a variety of different levels ­ Love is North American management for Esperanza Spalding and others through a partnership with Montuno S.L., a Barcelona based management and production company. Love also signed a deal with the New York-based Razor & Tie, which has distribution through Sony and RED.

“I fell in love with them,’ Love says of Razor & Tie,” Love says, “I was pleased that there wasn’t anything on their label that sounded like the kind of music I was used to recording, like Maceo Parker or Ladysmith Black Mambazo.”

According to Love, this deal also gives him a lot more flexibility to work with advertising agencies and cut deals that may not get done at a larger company. In the past, Love has brokered syncs with Sysco, Life Savers, Heinz Baked Beans and others. According to Love, Listen 2 works closely with the artist that allows them to have ownership of their masters. It also allows artists to help spearhead their promotion and marketing, which

Love believes is the best-case scenario.

“I offer much more than a traditional record company head who’s looking at the bottom line of record sales,” Love says. “It’s important to me that they are out there in front of people, and they can put people in the seats, which is where the bulk of their money is coming from. I can assist them in whatever it takes to get them in front of an audience and then everything else is going to come”

With Hugh Masekela, Love’s campaign is a mix of old school savvy and new school technology. Masekela is currently in the midst of an 11-date North American tour that hits performing arts centers, colleges and clubs in primary and secondary markets. A galvanizing live performer with a hot young band, Masekela tours around the world regularly, but not often in the U.S. to the extent of this current tour. Love made other changes as well, ones that bring this heritage artist into the 21st Century.

“The one thing Hugh never had before was his own web site, so we created a new web site,” says Love, who expects downloading to climb from its current sales rate of 25% as older consumers become more comfortable with the technology. “We tie in the social media aspect with Facebook and Twitter. There are digital marketing campaigns being done that tying it back to his web site where they can purchase the album or downloads on iTunes and Emusic or stream it at Rhapsody and Pandora.”

How a 68-Year-Old Horn Player Makes the Ladies Scream

Rolling Stone
By Evan Serpick

At age 68, South Africa’s Hugh Masekela is still one of the most thrilling live performers around. The flugelhorn master and bandleader has been a world-music hero since the ‘60s, when he came to L.A., recorded with The Byrds and Paul Simon, played Monterey Pop, and, in 1968, had a number-one hit with “Grazing in the Grass” — one of the only instrumental tracks to reach such heights.

Rooted in African rhythms and American jazz, Masekela has maintained a cultish following through his years and his new album, Live at the Market Theater, explains why: The clarion, confident call of his horn explodes on track after track, from celebratory songs like “Grazing” to political tracks like “Mandela.” The two-disc live set from San Francisco is an excellent introduction to Masekela’s music, lacking only the joy of seeing the spry, smiling musician create it.

To celebrate the album’s release, Masekela played a show aboard a cruise ship circling Manhattan Friday night. He wowed the ecstatic crowd on extended versions of “The Boy’s Doin’ It” and “Stimela” — a hypnotic tune about African coal miners dedicated to “working people over the world.” The South African ex-pats in the crowd in particular exploded upon seeing the aging jazzman work his considerable backside to the music, making Masekela perhaps the only 68-year-old who can inspire a dozen young South African women to scream in excitement at his every move.