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MTV Mama

Hugh Masekela Speaks On The Restoration Of Our Heritage And Languages

By Stella WaAfrika


Last night, Saturday 22nd October, the MTV Africa Music Awards were held at the TicketPro Dome in South Africa. This was the first time the ceremony was held in Johannesburg, hosted by Bonang Matheba, Nomzamo Mbatha and Yemi Alade, who replaced Trevor Noah.

South African music legend, Bra Hugh Masekela was a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement award for his contribution in the industry. He started off thanking Africans all over the world for their support. The music icon did not waste any time; in his acceptance speech he expressed how we should restore the best elements of our heritage back into our lives and how as artists they should reflect our stories because as artists, they can’t always keep asking us to romance and dance all the time.

He further added, failing to restore our heritage and promoting our indigenous languages will probably one day have our children asked who they are and their response will be, “They say we used to be Africans very long ago.” Imagine that?

Watch the ceremony here

Hugh Masekela wins at Jazz FM Awards

Photograph: Don’t Shoot Yourself (UK) Ltd

The second Jazz FM Awards, in partnership with Serious, took place tonight at the Great Halls at Vinopolis, London Bridge, establishing itself as the most prestigious accolade for jazz.

The night, hosted by actor and The Fast Show’s ‘Jazz Club’ Louis Balfour, John Thomson, featured stunning performances from PPL Lifetime Achievement winner Hugh Masekela who performed with Larry Willis, a beautiful tribute from Rebecca Ferguson, celebrating the centenary of Billie Holiday, and the House Gospel Choir. A surprise performance of the night came from Soul Artist Of The Year winner Jarrod Lawson. A wealth of talent was in attendance and celebrated with the winners with eleven awards being presented on the night recognising distinction and commending those that have made an exceptional contribution to Jazz, Blues and Soul.

Gregory Porter took his second Jazz FM award win with International Jazz Artist of the Year. The ‘Liquid Spirit’ singer successfully crossed over with his 2014 album recently reaching no.9 in the UK charts. The charming baritone is already widely regarded as one of the finest singers of his time, despite having only come to prominence in recent years. As a gospel, blues, jazz and soul singer in one package, he successfully saw off competition from drummer Antonio Sanchez, who wrote the soundtrack to the Oscar winning motion picture ‘Birdman’, and the powerhouse fusion-band Snarky Puppy.

Snarky Puppy’s pianist Bill Laurance won the Breakthrough Act award, having received widespread success and critical acclaim for his highly anticipated album ‘Swift’. Delivered with more classical leanings than the straightforward funk of Snarky Puppy, Laurance successfully demonstrates how deep groove and classical sensibility can sit happily side by side.

World-renowned multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, composer and singer Hugh Masekela was commended with the PPL Lifetime Achievement Award for both his outstanding contribution to music globally and as an incredibly important political voice. The South African artist who was a pillar of the anti-apartheid movement and has worked with every jazz legend imaginable commented:

“Over the past 45 years, England and particularly London has been a principal centre in my developmental journey to the place I have ultimately reached today in my life as a musician. Jazz FM has been a prime centre of support for me since its inception. It is therefore a humbling and highly fulfilling privilege for me to receive this Lifetime Achievement Award. I thank all who have supported me on an often difficult but ultimately joyous voyage which has brought me thus far down this musical highway.’

Jarrod Lawson won Soul Artist Of The Year. An impressive feat having gone up against the renowned D’Angelo and ‘the first daughter of soul’ Lalah Hathaway. The blue-eyed soul boy’s meteoric rise to fame saw him playing two sold out shows at the Jazz Cafe on his first visit to the UK. With a virtuosic talent on the piano and an ability to groove like the legends he takes much inspiration from, Lawson is one of the biggest soul-jazz sensations in years. Jarrod gave a surprise performance at the awards with his rendition of Leon Russell’s ‘A Song For You’.

Manchester three piece GoGo Penguin collected the gong for the public voted award, Jazz Act Of The Year. The band, made up of pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka, and drummer Rob Turner, saw their profile raised after being nominated for a Mercury Award last year. GoGo Penguin’s hard-hitting jazz-meets-electronica was up against the London based Sons Of Kemet and Polar Bear for the award.

Son Of Kemet did not walk away completely empty handed as Instrumentalist Of The Year went to their incomparable bandleader and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings. The innovative saxophonist went up against pianist Alexander Hawkins and trumpeter Laura Jurd for the award.

Vocalist Of The Year was an all female affair with nominations including Lauren Kinsella and Alice Zawadzki, with the award ultimately going to the much deserving Zara McFarlane. The MOBO award winning artist’s second album ‘If You Knew Her’ (released in 2014) was a sublime blend of neo-soul infused with her jazz heritage, allowing her to show her skill for fantastic song writing and flair for jazz improv.

Best Album (chosen by public vote) went to Dianne Reeves for her spectacular album ‘Beautiful Life’ which showcases her sublime ability to blur the lines between R&B, latin, pop and jazz. The album features an all-star cast including Esperanza Spalding and Richard Bona, vocalists Gregory Porter and Lalah Hathaway, pianists Robert Glasper and Gerald Clayton and Reeves’ cousin and frequent longtime collaborator, the late great George Duke.

Best Live Experience (chosen by public vote) was awarded to Loose Tubes at Cheltenham Jazz Festival ‘ the group’s first show in 24 years. The 21-piece band featured an all-star cast including keyboardist Django Bates, saxophonists Mark Lockheart (Polar Bear) and Iain Ballamy (Food), the irrepressible trombonist and charismatic MC Ashley Slater (Freak Power, Kitten and the Hip) plus trumpeter Chris Batchelor (Big Air). The pioneering act who were at their most productive in the 80s inspired a generation of musicians, and their set of classics and new commissions alike had fans on their feet for a standing ovation at Cheltenham.

The Innovation Award went to Jason Moran who has been constantly pushing the boundaries of the genre and challenging the ideas of what it is to experience jazz in the live arena. Since his emergence on the music scene in the late 90s, the jazz pianist has collaborated with dancers, skateboarders, artists, actors and varied ensembles. As a recording artist he has established himself as a risk-taker and innovator in almost every category; improvisation, composition, group concept, repertoire, technique and experimentation. In 2014 Jason successfully took his first step into scoring a major feature film with the Oscar Winning Selma.

New Orleans icon and rock and roll hall of famer Dr. John was recognized with the Blues Artist Of The Year Award. The six-time Grammy Award winner is a bona fide legend whose 2014 and 2015 world tours included sold-out shows throughout the U.S. and Europe.

The Jazz FM Awards 2015 is a partnership between Jazz FM and Serious and was made possible with the support of Aberdeen Asset Management, Audemus Spirits, CityJet, Conrad London St. James, Denbies Wine Estate, Mishcon De Reya, PPL, Taylor’s Port, Vinopolis, Voss, 7digital and Yamaha Music.

images/stories/jazz fm awards-8.jpg

Photograph: Don't Shoot Yourself (UK) Ltd
Photograph: Don’t Shoot Yourself (UK) Ltd

Full list of WINNERS (and nominees) for the Jazz FM Awards 2015:

Album of the Year (Public vote):

WINNER: Dianne Reeves (‘Beautiful Life’)

Nominees: Ambrose Akinmusire (‘The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint’), D’Angelo (‘Black Messiah’), Chris Potter Underground Orchestra (‘Imaginary Cities’), Polar Bear (‘In Each and Every One’), Troyka (‘Ornithophobia’)

Live Experience of the Year, sponsored by 7digital (Public Vote):

WINNER: Loose Tubes at Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Nominees: Blue Note 75th Birthday at EFG London Jazz Festival, Jamie Cullum at Love Supreme Jazz Festival

UK Jazz Act of the Year sponsored by Yamaha Music (Public Vote):

WINNER: GoGo Penguin

Nominees: Polar Bear, Sons of Kemet

Breakthrough Act, sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management:

WINNER: Bill Laurance

Nominees: GoGo Penguin, Peter Edwards

Instrumentalist of the Year:

WINNER: Shabaka Hutchings

Nominees: Alex Hawkins, Laura Jurd

Vocalist of the Year, sponsored by CityJet:

WINNER: Zara McFarlane

Nominees: Alice Zawadzki, Lauren Kinsella

Jazz Innovation of the Year, sponsored by Mishcon de Reya:

WINNER: Jason Moran

Nominees: Henry Threadgill, Theo Croker

International Jazz Artist of the Year, sponsored by Taylor’s Port:

WINNER: Gregory Porter

Nominees: Snarky Puppy, Antonio Sanchez

Blues Artist of the Year:


Nominees: Otis Taylor, Valerie June

Soul Artist of the Year, sponsored by Conrad London St. James:

WINNER: Jarrod Lawson

Nominees: D’Angelo, Lalah Hathaway

PPL Lifetime Achievement:

Hugh Masekela

“Then give up colonial lifestyles”

rhodes statue cropped

The Herald
Zandile Mbabela

Photograph by Eugene Coetzee
Photograph by Eugene Coetzee

Trumpeting his views: If African people were so concerned about colonialism they would have to give up their largely colonial lifestyles, jazz legend Hugh Masekela said when he was presented with an honorary doctorate in music at Rhodes University in Grahamstown yesterday. Masekela was commenting on the current campaign to remove or destroy colonial-era monuments. He commended the youth for their activism, but said there were more pressing issues that needed tackling.

Jazz maestro Hugh Masekela criticised the campaign to destroy and have removed all remnants of colonialism, saying if African people were so concerned about it they would have to give up their largely colonial lifestyles.

Masekela – who received his fourth honorary doctorate, from Rhodes University, last night – said while he was encouraged by seeing young people stand for something, there were far more pressing issues needing energy and attention.

“If we were really concerned about colonisation, we would be walking around naked {because} clothes are a colonial thing and our entire lifestyles are colonial,” he said.

“In this country, a woman is raped every few minutes, we have crime, corruption, and a country that is fast turning into a rubbish dump. There are so many things to worry about.

“I’m encouraged that the born-free generation that has always been seen to be complacent is now standing up for something, but I wish that the same energy would be put into the other pressing issues as well.”

In his acceptance speech at the 1820 Settlers Monument in Grahamstown yesterday, Masekela said people did not realise just how entrenched the colonial culture was.

“We are so absorbed in other cultures that we do not realise that we spend billions of dollars on colonially introduced things.

“We do not realise we spend billions on other people’s hair,” he said, to awkward laughter.

The musician appears opposed to hair extensions and will not consent to photographs with people with fake hair. He dedicated the doctor of music degree to his late father, Thomas Selema Masekela, who did not have a degree and marvelled at those who did, including his wife who had three.

“One of my father’s biggest wishes was to have a degree, so this is for you, Selema,” he said.

Masekela jets off to Zimbabwe today for the start of a tour.

He treated graduation attendees to a rendition of a song by his ex-wife, the late Miriam Makeba, with Rhodes student Lonwabo Mafani on keyboard.

Rhodes gives Hugh Masekela an honorary doctorate

Photograph by Nikita Ramkissoon

Times Live

Photograph by Nikita Ramkissoon

Jazz icon Hugh Masekela will receive an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University Thursday 9th April.

The university said Masekela was “without doubt one of South Africa’s most successful artists and his influence on world music has been nothing short of phenomenal”.

“The university is ideally placed to acknowledge Masekela’s unique appreciation of the struggles of ordinary people in their movement between town and country‚” spokesman Zamuxolo Matiwana said.

“It is located in the Eastern Cape‚ the source of the migrant labour depicted in his Stimela song‚ an area that forcibly or otherwise recruited labour for the urban centres of South Africa for at least two centuries.

“Awarding Masekela an honorary doctorate recognises both his inestimable contribution to South African music and its place in the world. It also contributes significantly to the vision of making International Library of African Music at Rhodes‚ a living monument to African musical accomplishment of which Masekela is one of the most formidable examples.”

The university will also award honorary doctorates to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela‚ art expert David Koloane and former Vice-Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat on Friday‚ while on Saturday‚ welfare activist Professor Francie Lund will receive an honorary doctorate.

Lund is most well known for chairing The Lund Committee of Enquiry on Child and Family Support in 1995‚ which led to the establishment of the Child Support Grant in 1998.

She also led major research initiatives‚ including a landmark project in the 1980s which attempted to map the scale of inequity in welfare provision‚ particularly in the Eastern Cape‚ and the deficit in provision between the previous “white” South African system of welfare and the appalling provision of welfare for blacks located in the “Bantustans” such as Transkei and Ciskei.

Jazz FM Awards 2015

Photograph by Sarah Lee

Jazz FM Awards to Return in June to Celebrate Jazz FM’s 25th year

Jazz FM
Press Release

Jazz FM is delighted to announce that the Jazz FM Awards will return for a second year on Wednesday June 10th 2015 in the Great Halls at Vinopolis, London Bridge. The awards will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jazz FM, launched in 1990. Legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award on the night.

Eleven awards will be presented to honour musicians and performers that have made an exceptional contribution within of jazz, blues and soul. The award categories are:

• Breakthrough Act

• Instrumentalist of the Year

• Album of the Year

• Jazz Innovation of the Year

• Live Experience of the Year

• UK Jazz Act of the Year

• International Jazz Artist of the Year

• Blues Artist of the Year

• Soul Artist of the Year

• Vocalist of the Year

• Lifetime Achievement – to be presented to Hugh Masekela

This unique event presented by Jazz FM and Serious will celebrate the wealth of talent demonstrated in jazz music over the last 12 months with live performances including Hugh Masekela, who will be joined by American jazz pianist Larry Willis.

Hugh Masekela is a world-renowned multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, composer, singer and defiant anti-apartheid campaigner. A proud South African he was born in the town of Witbank he went on to work with Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and notably his former wife the late Miriam Makeba. A pillar of the anti-apartheid movement, Hugh returned to his home country in 1990 following a 30 year exile. In 2010 President Zuma honoured him with the highest order in South Africa: The Order of Ikhamanga. Masekela will also play the Barbican in London on Monday 8th June and Love Supreme Festival on 5th July as part of his busy international tour schedule.

Jazz FM Chairman Richard Wheatly said: “We’re proud to be celebrating 25 years of Jazz FM at this year’s Awards which recognise the best musicians and performers. The evening is set to be a fantastic occasion, bringing together the jazz world’s finest with Hugh Masekela headlining what will be an unforgettable night.”

The Jazz FM Awards first took place in 2013 creating a memorable night of live music and celebration. Performances included a world first collaboration by Jamie Cullum and the inaugural Jazz FM Awards lifetime Achievement winner Ahmad Jamal with recognition of amazing accomplishments from Robert Glasper, Gregory Porter, Kurt Elling and more.

The Jazz FM Awards 2015 is a partnership between Jazz FM and Serious and is made possible with the support of Aberdeen Asset Management, Taylor’s Port, Mishcon De Reya and Arqiva.

Bra Hugh Awarded University of York Honorary Doctorate

Photograph by Suzy Harrison

Press Release

Photograph by Suzy Harrison

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.

Photograph by Suzy Harrison
Photograph by Suzy Harrison

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
Gary Verity
Liz Wilson
Professor Paulo Gadelha
Professor Anne Treisman
Professor Mike Kelly
Roland Keating
Dr Susanna Moorehead

US Churches Honour Bra Hugh


The TimesAndile Ndlovu

Veteran trumpeter Hugh Masekela followed in Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s footsteps in being honoured with a “Keepers of the Flame” award at the African American Church Inaugural Ball on Sunday night.

The event – to honour Barack Obama’s re-election as US president – follows the one in 2009 when Obama assumed office.

Masekela performed a musical tribute to former president Nelson Mandela at the black-tie event held at The Grand Hyatt in Washington.

The event’s programme read: “Hugh Masekela is a world-renowned musician, composer, and a defiant political voice who remains deeply connected to his homeland and the world.

“The agony, conflict, and exploitation South Africa faced during the 1950s and 1960s inspired the world. Masekela is known for his musical mix of jazz, bebop, funk and Afrobeat. He has won numerous awards, made countless records and established himself as a towering musical presence.”

The event was themed “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.

Others honoured included boxing legend Muhammad Ali; the first African American astronaut candidate, Ed Dwight; the first African American to be appointed as surgeon-general of the US, Jocelyn Elders; and singer Aretha Franklin.

The Rev W Franklyn Richardson, who is the chairman of the Conference of National Black Churches, hosted the event.

Those honoured in 2009 included author and poet Maya Angelou, publisher and philanthropist Earl Graves snr, civil rights activist and Baptist minister the Rev Al Sharpton and Tutu.

Journalist Roland Martin tweeted yesterday: “Just got a wonderful word of encouragement from South African artist Hugh Masekela! He said I have lots of fans in the Motherland! #honored [sic].

“Masekela said to always speak truth on @cnn and don’t stop fighting. We need your voice to speak to the world. I was touched by his words .”

Bra Hugh Masekela Nominated For a Grammy


Bra Hugh Masekela Nominated For a Grammy
Mumford & Sons, Frank Ocean, Kanye West earn six nods apiece

Rolling Stone

Legendary South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela has been nominated for a Grammy for his 2010 album Jabulani in the best world music category.

The Black Keys scored five nominations for the 55th annual Grammy Awards on Wednesday night, and singer Dan Auerbach earned a sixth, putting him among a crowded field of artists with six nods each, including Jay-Z, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Mumford & Sons and fun.

It’s a strong showing for the Black Keys, who released their seventh album, El Camino, last December. The duo’s LP is up for Album of the Year and Best Rock Album, while their song “Lonely Boy” is nominated for Record of the Year, Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song. Auerbach is also nominated for non-classical Producer of the Year for his work on El Camino and albums by Dr. John and Hacienda.

New York indie-pop band fun. and R&B singer Ocean will face off against the Keys with nominations for Record of the Year and Album of the Year, and against each other for Best New Artist, where Alabama Shakes, the Lumineers and Hunter Hayes are also contenders. Mumford & Sons’ Babel and Jack White’s Blunderbuss round out the Album of the Year contenders, along with fun.’s Some Nights and Ocean’s Channel Orange.

Along with Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You” and fun.’s “We Are Young,” the other nominees for Record of the Year, an artist’s award, are Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” and Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” “We Are Young” and “Stronger” are also nominated for Song of the Year, a songwriter’s award. They’ll vie against Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call MeMaybe,” Miguel’s “Adorn” and Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team.”

Jay-Z and West’s 2011 album Watch the Throne yielded nominations in Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for “N***as in Paris,” and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “No Church in the Wild” (which accounts for another of Ocean’s nods). West will compete against himself in Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance: his song “Mercy” is nominated in each.

Along with El Camino, the other Best Rock Album nominees are Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto, Muse’s The 2nd Law, Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball and White’s Blunderbuss. Springsteen and White earned three nominations each.

The nominees were announced on Wednesday night during the Grammy Nominations Concert Live in Nashville, where the Who, Maroon 5, Ne-Yo, and fun. performed. The 55th Annual Grammy Awards will air on CBS on February 10th, 2013. Nominees in the major categories are below. The full list is at

Album of the Year

El Camino – The Black Keys

Some Nights – Fun.

Babel – Mumford & Sons

Channel Orange – Frank Ocean

Blunderbuss – Jack White

Record of the Year

“Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys

“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” – Kelly Clarkson

“We Are Young” – Fun., featuring Janelle Monáe

“Somebody That I Used To Know” – Gotye, featuring Kimbra

“Thinkin Bout You” – Frank Ocean

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” – Taylor Swift

Best New Artist

Alabama Shakes


Hunter Hayes

The Lumineers

Frank Ocean

Song of the Year

“The A Team” – Ed Sheeran, songwriter (Ed Sheeran)

“Adorn” – Miguel Pimentel, songwriter (Miguel)

“Call Me Maybe” – Tavish Crowe, Carly Rae Jepsen and Josh Ramsay, songwriters (Carly Rae Jepsen)

“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” – Jörgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin and Ali Tamposi, songwriters (Kelly Clarkson)

“We Are Young” – Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost and Nate Ruess, songwriters (Fun., featuring Janelle Monáe)

Jabulani Grammy Nomination


Hugh Masekela Nominated for a Grammy® –
“Best World Music” Category for his 2010 Album “Jabulani”

Press Release

Legendary Jazz-Icon Hugh Masekela has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the “Best World Music Album” category for the album “Jabulani”- Produced and arranged by Don Laka,& released through the Gallo Record Company label in South Africa and Razor & Tie Records in the USA.

The critically acclaimed release “Jabulani” was recorded in Johannesburg in 2010, and features a selection of traditional African weddings songs that were re-interpreted by Masekela, and includes the hit single and video “Sossie” as well as the live favourite “Makoti”.

It has been over 30 years since Masekela received his first Grammy® nomination for “Grazin’ In The Grass” in 1968.

“Wow! This is most unexpected, – I’m baffled and humbled at the same time” says Masekela

Masekela has released 43 albums since his career began in the mid – 50’s & has recorded and performed with some of the worlds most celebrated artists including the late great Miriam Makeba, Paul Simon, U2, Fela Kuti, The Crusaders (Joe Sample, Wilton Felder, Stix Hooper), The Byrds, The Mahotella Queens, Herb Alpert, Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Manu Dibango to name a few.

Masekela is nominated alongside Amadou & Miriam, Daniel Ho, Anoushka Shankar & Ravi Shankar for “Best World Music Album” category for the 2013 Grammy® Awards to be held February 10th 2013.

Download Hugh Masekela “Jabulani” on ITunes

For further information please contact:

Artist Management:
Josh Georgiou
082 881 8565

Gallo Record Company:
Neil Greenberg
Tel: 011 280 5763

Hugh Masekela Wins Womex Lifetime Achievement Award

Photo by Chris Saunders

WOMEX 11 Artist Award

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


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.