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International Jazz Day Istanbul 2013


The International Jazz Day Global Concert

Webcast Available Worldwide at

April 30, 2013 — 9pm (Istanbul)

7pm (London) / 2pm (New York) / 4am (Sydney – May 1st)

The evening concert at Istanbul’s famed Hagia Irene will feature performances by stellar musicians from around the world, including pianists John Beasley, George Duke, Robert Glasper, Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis, Keiko Matsui and Eddie Palmieri; vocalists Rubén Blades, Al Jarreau, Milton Nascimento, Dianne Reeves and Joss Stone; trumpeters Terence Blanchard, Imer Demirer and Hugh Masekela; bassists James Genus, Marcus Miller, Esperanza Spalding and Ben Williams; drummers Terri Lyne Carrington and Vinnie Colaiuta; guitarists Bilal Karaman, John McLaughlin, Lee Ritenour and Joe Louis Walker; saxophonists Dale Barlow, Igor Butman, Branford Marsalis, Wayne Shorter and Liu Yuan; clarinetists Anat Cohen and Hüsnü Şenlendirici; violinist Jean-Luc Ponty; Pedrito Martinez and Zakir Hussain on percussion and other special guests. John Beasley will be the event’s musical director.

Bra Hugh Supports Oliver Mtukudzi

One Night in Africa - Oliver Mtukudzi and Friends

Bra Hugh Supports Oliver Mtukudzi as the Legend Celebrates his 60th Birthday in Concert

Press Release

images/stories/News/oliver poster ccty.jpg.jpg

One Night in Africa – Oliver Mtukudzi and Friends

Featuring guest appearances by: Hugh Masekela, Judith Sephuma, Steve Dyer and Siphokhazi


Live Performance by Zahara

Presented by:

DStv, Kaya Fm and Carnival City. A Breakout Management Production

Living legend Oliver Mtukudzi celebrates his 60th birthday year at Carnival City on the 2nd November. No stranger to the South African music scene Oliver’s 60th birthday coincides with the release of his 60th studio album, ‘Sarawoga’.

Few musical legends have achieved the kind of regional and international status as Oliver has. From the front cover of time magazine to his appointment as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, Mtukudzi’s fame, stage craft and music prowess are legendary.

To celebrate these two incredible milestones Oliver invites all of his fans to his first performance in Johannesburg for 2012 for his 60th birthday performance which promises to be something very special as he invites his musical friends to guest with him on stage throughout the 120 minute performance. Stars such Judith Sephuma, Hugh Masekela, Siphokazi and Steve Dyer will join Oliver on stage for select songs as he plays the hits from a lifetime in music.

As one legend surveys his achievements and lifetime of music another legend emerges from the wings. Zahara who needs no introduction has arrived on the South African and international scene with a song and a drive that has left all others in her dust. Honoured to be on the same bill as Oliver as he celebrates his 60th birthday the show celebrates one legend and welcomes another into the spotlight as their lifetime in music begins.

Another ‘birthday’ worth noting is the one year anniversary of the launch of the One Night in Africa Series.

DStv were there one year ago for the inaugural concert at Carnival City in October 2011. The country’s leading cable brand, have a keen an eye for talent and entertainment brand building. The series that hosts hometown musical heroes and in this case legends has struck a chord with the DStv audience and who’s continued support of the brand has meant that it continues to grow and evolve into an event property that is synonymous with high end production value, musical collaborations and performances not to be missed.

It was the break away hit ‘Todii’ that cemented a love affair and relationship that has lasted almost two decades. Kaya Fm were the first radio station in the country to highlight the massive talent to the north of our borders by breaking the now well known single ‘Todii’. Kaya Fm have helped make Oliver a household name in South Africa and it was Oliver’s music that stuck resonance with Kaya’s commitment to quality African music that played a part in the development of Kaya’s massive audience and market share.

These relationships have been written in the stars by the stars.

Veenwouden Masekela Wine Launch


Hugh Masekela Wine Collection Launched by Veenwouden

House of Masekela Press Release

‘Music, wine, food and good company are the best combination’ says Marcel van der Walt, vintner at Veenwouden and Hugh Masekela’s latest partner in collaboration. This heady mix was at its best last Sunday as the House of Masekela launched Veenwouden’s new Hugh Masekela Collection at Signature Restaurant in Sandton, Johannesburg. Incomparable pianist, Larry Willis, joined Bra Hugh to celebrate the release of the wine, perfectly timed to coincide with the release of their latest joint album: Friends, a 4 CD box set of jazz standards that serves as the long-awaited sequel to Almost Like Being in Jazz.

The audience was treated to a selection of numbers off the album, as well as anecdotes from Larry and Hugh’s shared years at the Manhattan school of Music in the early 60s, when the two spent every night in clubs watching and learning from talents like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Mingus and Max Roach. The music and laughter continued as three delicious courses were served – carefully chosen to whet the appetite for the main attraction: Veenwouden Private Cellar Hugh Masekela Collection 2012.

Van der Walt envisions this release as being the first of many inspired by Masekela’s music. Friends brings together two lifelong friends, who have both pushed the boundaries of excellence in their instruments, to play music from the golden era of jazz. The first release from the Hugh Masekela Collection needed to be a tribute to these greats and also the perfect drinking accompaniment when listening to the album. Van der Walt had this in mind when he hand-selected the perfect grapes from Veenwouden’s 2011 vintage. The result is a well-structured blend with the mineral backbone of Cabernet Sauvignon, softened by velvety Merlot. Bold dark fruits with a hint of spice give way to deep blackcurrant molasses that lingers on the palate long after the last sip. Already delicious, this complex wine has been designed to age for up to 20 years.

Signature Restaurant in Sandton was the perfect choice as launch pad for this special collection. Owner, Desmond Mabuza, opened the venue 3 years ago with the aim to bring excellent food, great service, classy ambience and outstanding entertainment under one roof. He certainly has succeeded. Despite the local and worldwide recession in recent years, Signature has thrived from day one. The restaurant offers live music nightly from Monday to Saturday and at lunch time on Sunday’s. Hugh Masekela and Larry Willis are without doubt the biggest stars yet to grace Signature’s stage and Mabuza hopes that this is just the beginning of a tradition of top-drawer events in this premium setting.

Only 1000 bottles of the Veenwouden Hugh Masekela Collection 2012 have been released worldwide, 500 of these available in South Africa, making this wine a true collector’s item. To make this purchase even more special, the House of Masekela has designed gift-packages that include the Friends box set.

Veenwouden Hugh Masekela Collection 2012 is available through Signature Restaurant (Tel: 087 940 3880; Email:, at the Veenwouden cellar in Paarl by appointment (Tel: 021 872 6806; Email: or via the Veenwouden website:

BT River of Music

Photography by Haydn Wheeler

Hugh Masekela, Angelique Kidjo, Ndeshi:
The Africa Stage, BT River of Music Festival as Olympic Games Launched

Photography by Haydn Wheeler

Namibian R&B singer, Ndeshi Shipanga recently represented Namibia at the BT River of Music Festival, held in London as part of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

She performed with the SAfricanto accapella group, which consisted of singers from Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and South Africa. Ndeshi, who was the only representative for Namibia.

Along with a solo performance, Safricanto also accompanied the legendary Hugh Masekela on stage at the London Pleasure Gardens.

Led by vocal director, Joyce Moholoagae, a world class South African singer who studied at London’s Royal Academy of Music, Safricanto’s musical harmonies, vivid melodies and rhythmic grooves conjured the rich tapestry of African culture, right in the heart of east London.

Hugh Masekela has come to be known as a living legend in the half-century since he first picked up a trumpet, his voice has long spoken out about his country’s struggle for civil rights, whilst his soaring, joyful trumpet sound brims with warmth and bristles with elements of township jazz, hip-hop and funk.

He took to the BT River of Music Africa stage for two collaborations: first with SAfricanto and the second with fellow African superstar Angelique Kidjo.

The concert also featured a performance by the Senegalese singer, Baaba Maal.

“It was amazing,” says Ndeshi. “There were over 8 000 people at the sold out venue, so it was slightly nerve wrecking, especially working with Hugh but he was really friendly and down to earth and gave all of us hugs.”

Ndeshi recounts how Masekela made sure his part of the show was as authentically African as possible. “He told all the back-up singers to remove the weaves from their hair before the show,” says Ndeshi laughingly. “He said they contain the ghosts of the dead.”

Her involvement in the show started when she was approached by Serious Music, one of the UK’s leading producers and curators of contemporary music, who were looking for singers from southern Africa.

The group met up, learned the various songs and rehearsed only twice before Masekela pronounced them ready for the stage.

“It was such a great day and a massive festival with a massive stage and loads of stalls. The kids were all running around barefoot and it felt almost like being back home,” she said.

The idea of BT River of Music began 10 years ago when Serious created and produced five epic stages around the Serpentine for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebration. Since then, they have been developing the idea that has finally become BT River of Music, which brings together artists from across the world for this once in a lifetime event.

Ndeshi relocated to the UK about four years ago, where she has been working with young people and future musicians. She’s had a few small performances and has continued writing songs while raising her son, who saw his mum perform for the first time at the concert last Saturday. She is looking forward to doing more recordings and being involved with future performances with Safricanto.

Hugh Masekela Joins Paul Simon Graceland Tour!

Photograph: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela Joins Paul Simon in London to Kick off the Graceland Tour!

Photograph: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Twenty five years after Hugh Masekela first collaborated with Paul Simon and now legendary SA musicians like Miriam Makeba and Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the Graceland album and subsequent tour – the two icons reunited on a Hyde Park Stage on 15 July 2012. The anniversary celebration included the original Graceland band, led by guitarist Ray Phiri as well as Ladysmith Black Mambazo and reggae star, Jimmy Cliff.

This celebratory concert marks the beginning of an anniversary tour that coincides with the release of a new edition of Graceland, which was recorded in Johannesburg last year and features a number of the musicians off the original album.

In 1987, South Africa was in a state of emergency, Nelson Mandela was behind bars and the South African people were utterly oppressed by the apartheid government. The international community established boycotts in support of the Struggle – including a cultural boycott that Paul Simon broke by recording Graceland in South Africa. Hugh Masekela defended him against international outcry at this contravention as it was not only hugely advantageous to the careers of the South African musicians involved, but also brought a much higher level of awareness of the South African situation to the world.

Twenty five years on, their anniversary tour is a joyous celebration of their longstanding friendship that is now welcomed in a democratic South Africa. Both septuagenarians show no signs of slowing down as they revel in the diverse, funky, beautiful music that brought them together.

The tour continues and Masekela joins Simon for the following appearances:

Brussels , Belgium 17 July Vorst Nationaal
Amsterdam, Netherlands 18 July Ziggo Dome
Herning, Denmark 20 July Jyske Bank Boxen, MCH
Stockholm , Sweden 22 July Ericsson Globe Arena
Olso, Norway 24 July Oslo Spektrum


Hugh Masekela & Friends makes Africa Channel Debut


Hugh Masekela & Friends Africa Channel Debut

The Africa Channel

A celebration of the South African music legend, composer and bandleader Hugh Masekela and his extensive career, Hugh Masekela & Friends makes its Africa Channel debut this June. Filmed the The Teatro at Montecasino in Johannesburg, ‘Bra Hugh’ is joined on stage by various friends and collaborators including multi-award winning singer, songwriter and recording artist, Thandiswa Mazwai and former Sankomota leader and gospel soloist, Tsepo Tshola. The talented musicians of Masekela’s new band join them on stage, featuring Erick Paliani on guitar, Lee-Roy Sauls on drums, Fana Zulu on bass and Randal Skippers on keyboards.

The joyous event brings together South Africa’s finest new and well-loved musical talent for two hours of not-to-be-missed musical performances, including jazz, Afrobeat and modern kwaito.

Watch Hugh Masekela & Friends on The Africa Channel at 2pm on 29 July 2012.

For information on purchasing the Hugh Masekela & Friends DVD contact

Friends Album Launch Review


A Set for Jazz Aficionados

Edward Tsumele

Hugh Masekela is mainly known, particularly in this country, as an Afro-jazz artist who melds his native South African folk sound with American jazz-tinged music, achieving a unique flavour.

Well, that is one side of the man who honed his skills and sound in the Sophiatown of the 1960s.

There is, however, another side to this man, whose travels around the world from Europe to North America are perhaps as regular as travelling from Johannesburg to Cape Town for some of us. He is a serious jazz muso, well educated in the tradition of the genre in the West, particularly in the US, where he lived in exile for many years.

Masekela has released a four-CD set comprising mainly reworked and reinterpreted American standards, which certainly demonstrates his jazz side.

The CD, which he launched at Old Mutual on the Square, Sandton, to an audience composed mainly of those in the know when it comes to jazz, is testimony to the man’s versatility and his mastery of US jazz standards that are usually only achieved by jazz musicians of the highest order.

Having been educated at the famed Manhattan School of Music, where he met the likes of internationally renowned pianist Larry Willis. The two recorded the CD in South Africa last year after sharing the stage at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

The new CD was first launched to critical acclaim in New York last month and the local launch, which was attended by among others his sister Barbara Masekela, the former SA high commissioner to France, his daughter Pula, comedians David Kibuuka and Loyiso Gola, was an intoxicating affair that had the audience eating out of the legend’s hand.

While I saw a number of nods among the crowd in appreciation of what Masekela and Willis have done on the CD, I wonder if it is the kind of album that would endear itself to those who are still wet behind the ears when it comes to jazz.

They might find Friends a bit heavy.

Hugh Masekela Revivalist Review- FRIENDS


Hugh Masekela & Larry Willis: FRIENDS
at the Jazz Standard: Review

The Revivalist
Shannon J. Effinger

May 1 & 2, 2012

It’s inspiring, even comforting, to know that a giant like Hugh Masekela can be vulnerable and unsure. This man not only brought a global awareness to his native South Africa, but through his music, he also led the fight to end apartheid, a fight that exiled him from his country for over thirty years. Even former President Nelson Mandela sent Masekela a letter from prison thanking him for the work that he has done. And despite his legacy, Masekela was still afraid of a little thing called jazz. Despite having made an entire career out of fusing jazz with his “shit from home” as he says, Masekela still had doubts about his ability to play American standards. Music critics like Stanley Crouch and Leonard Feather have often dismissed his work, saying things like “He ain’t playing jazz” or “That ain’t jazz.” Although his name has become synonymous with South African, even world music, Hugh Masekela is very much an integral part of the New York jazz scene.

In the early 1960s, he studied at the Manhattan School of Music with the likes of Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock and his good friend, pianist Larry Willis, who accompanies him tonight during his first-ever appearance at Jazz Standard. “Larry was one of the people who introduced me to ‘New York, New York’ when I’d just come from ‘the jungle.’ And we had something in common because he, too, came from the jungle—153rd and Lenox!” After two numbers in, Masekela recalls how he first met Willis, who was a voice major studying opera. “One day when the opera people were rehearsing, there was Larry in a white wig and a baby blue George Washington outfit! They were doing Così fan tutte or one of those things. I said to him, ‘Larry, why are you doing this?’ ‘Why are you wearing those clothes and singing that music?’” Masekela credits jazz lecturer John Mehegan for teaching both him and Willis the art of jazz improvisation and how crucial it was to learn the popular standards. “You couldn’t get into jam sessions in those days if you didn’t know the songs. And not only did you have to know the songs, but [also] the keys and the chords.”

Hugh Masekela at the Jazz Standard
Hugh Masekela at the Jazz Standard

Like most jazz musicians, Masekela and Willis were also students outside of the classroom, jamming for hours on end at landmarks like Jazz Gallery, The Village Gate, even Birdland. Most recently, during last year’s performance at The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Masekela and Willis devoted almost an entire live set to his 2005 album Almost Like Being in Jazz, revisiting the standards that gave them their musical bearings. After performing to the sold-out crowd in Cape Town, friends and family (including Willis) urged Masekela to record these songs once again. Reuniting with Willis, their latest album is aptly titled Friends, a 4-disc box set containing 40 songs—38 are American standards while two are from the French composer Michel Legrand. Masekela gives Willis credit for bringing the “jazz” out of him on this album. “Larry taught me all of these songs because he knew them better than I did. All I had to say was ‘I like that song.’ ‘You like it?’ ‘We’re gonna play it!’”

Willis kicks off the second set with a quiet, contemplative piano on Randy Weston’s “Hi Fly.” After a subtle pickup of the tempo, while he steadily taps his foot in rhythm, Masekela creates an ebb and flow on flugelhorn with his notes as he starts off powerful and high, and then comes down in a soft, breathy staccato. Applying a bit too much force in the opening, especially when he tackles the melody line, Masekela finds his way back quite nicely during his improvisation with a tidal wave of punctuated notes before handing it back to Willis, who creates a few waves of his own with a strong, lyrical piano. To see (and hear) Masekela and Willis “dance” together during their call and response as they close out the number shows both the intimacy and trust that these musicians share.

Larry Willis at the Jazz Standard
Larry Willis at the Jazz Standard

They approach “Monk’s Mood” with slight trepidation, like they’re merely running through the piece. As they come to complete stops after almost every chord change, this approach somehow conjures the essence of not only Thelonious Monk’s style — dramatic, intense and prone to spontaneously dancing and stopping in the middle of a number— but you also gain a real appreciation of how beautiful the melody is after they “break it down.” While the next tune keeps the theme of lush melodies going with Thom Bell’s “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” Masekela jokingly recalls his initial shock when Willis suggested this song for the album: “Larry, that’s R&B…we’re supposed to ‘almost be in jazz!’” Masekela is more than warmed up as he tackles the vocals on Fats Waller’s “Until the Real Thing Comes Along.” Channeling the spirit of the great crooners like Billy Eckstine and Johnny Hartman, Masekela narrows in on you, making you feel as though you’re the only woman he’s singing to in the crowd. He’s never flowery or overly sentimental, but he instead takes a more modern approach as he “woos” you, full of the usual candor and suggestive charm that he brings to all of his performances.

As they closed out the evening with Herbie Hancock’s classic “Cantaloupe Island,” a fitting tribute to his friend (and former classmate) as they marked International Jazz Day earlier in the week, it was not only the perfect ending to an evening of timeless jazz standards, but in true jam session form, Masekela and Willis invited another great artist to join them on stage that night—none other than jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. After a few quick hugs and kisses, Masekela “coaxed” Bridgewater into scatting for the crowd and soon enough, they were playing off one another like dear, old friends. But then again, every moment spent with Hugh Masekela is “almost like being in love.”

International Jazz Day at UN

A Who’s Who of Musical Greats Come Together at Inaugural International Jazz Day at U.N.

New York Daily News
Greg Thomas

Photograph by JC McIlwane/Getty Images
Photograph by JC McIlwane/Getty Images

Photograph by JC McIlwane/Getty Images
Photograph by JC McIlwane/Getty Images

Stars include Stevie Wonder, Hugh Masekela, Tony Bennett, Joe Lovano, Hiromi Uehara and more

The audience for the inaugural concert of International Jazz Day at the United Nations on Monday was kissed, time and time again, by moments of sheer musical bliss.

There was a headspinning roster of talent inside the U.N. General Assembly Hall — and an A-list of celebrity hosts, including Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Quincy Jones.

Compositions by George Gershwin, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Duke Ellington, among others, became democratic platforms for fluid ensemble cooperation and heartfelt individual expression.

Tony Bennett’s rendition of Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars” was musical story-telling at its best.

Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Jac k DeJohnette and Wayne Shorter (all Miles Davis alumni) elaborated the tension and release of Davis’ “Milestones.”

After Freeman described the blues as “the emotional and spiritual touchstone of jazz musicians around the world,” musical director George Duke was joined by guitarist Derek Trucks, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and guitar-playing vocalists Robert Cray and Susan Tedeschi to blow the blues away on Howlin’ Wolf’s “How Many More Years.”

Flaunting her close familiarity with jazz styling, a svelte, sexy Chaka Khan sang a swingin’ version of “Them There Eyes,” with tenor sax man Joe Lovano uncoiling a solo, in honor of Ella Fitzgerald.

Jazz embracing peoples and musical forms around the world was a major theme.

African roots were honored via Angelique Kidjo and Lionel Loueke (both from Benin), Richard Bona (Cameroon), and the South African jazz icon Hugh Masekela. He was joined by Stevie Wonder on harmonica and elder statesman saxophonist Jimmy Heath on Masekela’s 1968 hit, “Grazing in the Grass.”

Sheila E. and Candido, 91, lit up the hall with lilting Latin jazz in a group led by drummer Bobby Sanabria. A duo of Hancock and Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang performing “Tonight” from “West Side Story” brought a breathtaking hush to the great hall.

Japanese piano wonder Hiromi Uehara, joined by trumpeter Terence Blanchard and Israeli saxophonist Eli Degibri, began the folk song “Sakura, Sakura” with a gentle touch that blossomed into two-handed fury.

East Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain leavened several songs, taking a thrilling solo on “Cottontail” after Dee Dee Bridgewater and Shankar Mahadevan — scatting over fast changes in an Indian vocal style — traded choruses.

Pianist Danilo Perez, from Panama, performed with special sensitivity to the blues accompanying an inspired Wynton Marsalis on “St. James Infirmary,” a folk song made famous by Louis Armstrong in 1928.

Perhaps the most stunning highlight among many was a glorious interpretation of Lionel Hampton’s “Midnight Sun” by Wonder and Esperanza Spalding, who sang with plaintive joy while plucking bass lines. Wonder followed his masterly harmonica improvisation with signature melisma, as the Brazilian guitar great Romero Lubambo strummed a cosmos.

At the post-event soiree, U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice said the “General Assembly Hall has never been so cool.”

Right she was.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said afterwards that “jazz is another word for life” in explaining why the agency created International Jazz Day. “It carries meaning for all societies, on all continents. Jazz renews itself every time it is played. It is the sound of freedom.”

For UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Hancock, who, with the Thelonious Monk Institute, originated the jazz day idea, it was all a dream come to life.

“I am so pleased that each year on April 30th millions of people in hundreds of countries will pay tribute to jazz and its role of uniting humanity,” Hancock declared.

Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride, who performed on both electric and acoustic basses throughout this special night, praised Hancock.

“International Jazz Day is a great example of the good guy winning. His heart is in the right place, and he wants the best for everybody, not just his own little crew. That just makes me happy, man.

“Out of all of the big gala events that we’ve seen, this is the one that will likely go down in the annals of world history.”

Hugh’s Complete Aural Workout

Kgomotso Moncho

Photograph by Sizwe Ndingane
Photograph by Sizwe Ndingane

Hugh Masekela is steadfast in his mission and life’s obsession with heritage restoration and his latest venture presented itself when he least expected it. But he believes it is one whose image refutes what apartheid stood for and with a lot of socio political positiveness.

And it would seem Bra Hugh has a knack for coming up with projects that defy socio-political expectations. Six years ago, he signed Corlea Botha (now doing her native Afrikaans music) to his now defunct Chissa records, after spotting her as the only white girl among hopefuls at the Surf Miriam Makeba Tribute to Dolly Rathebe auditions. on the album Shades of the Rainbow, Bra Hugh has Botha (from Benoni) tackling Afro-pop and funk, singing in Zulu and Shona, and doing songs such as Take Me to Soweto with charm.

This time he’s gathered a group of Danish girls and a quartet of local male voices to give new interpretations to South African and Scandinavian folk songs.

At his recording studio, House of Masekela, in Boschkop, Pretoria, opened in 2010, he and his Danish counterparts opened up about this special venture. And it turns out the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had a hand in its conception.

His 80th birthday last year, which was marred by the Dalai Lama being denied a visa by the SA government to attend the celebration, was the catalyst. With the Dalai Lama being present via Skype, the party did go on and among the big names invited to perform was conductor Rikke Forchhammer and her group of girls, The Baobab Singers, from Denmark.

Bra Hugh was supposed to be there, but couldn’t make it. Flipping through the channels at home he came across the broadcast of the Tutu festivity and saw the Danish girls singing SA folk songs with Forchhammer at the helm.

The Baobab Singers have toured SA five times doing SA songs. Their appeal is in how they render the songs, respect them by approaching them simply and sincerely, without trying too hard.

“We originally started with Tanzanian music because I lived in Tanzania as a child,” says Forchhammer. “I studied musicology and specialised in African choral music and have always been drawn to SA music because of its structure and soul.”

Bra Hugh was taken in by their knowledge of SA music.

“What knocked me out was seeing these Danish people consumed in our heritage, and we’re looking for Denmark,” he says. “With music being my first language, I feel they live in a world I’m obsessed with, which is heritage restoration. So when I heard them my first instinct was, ‘how am I going to get hold of them?’”

Like something that was meant to happen, Bra Hugh got an e-mail from Forchhammer proposing a possible collaboration. Bra Hugh brought with him a quartet of male singers from Voslorus, Complete, who are simply astounding. They combine their influence of Boys II Men, The Manhattan Brothers, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and gospel music into their own musical ritual. The soul in their raw voices does more than put a tingle in your spine. And with the coaching they get from Masekela, they have moulded their sound to produce immaculate and heartfelt harmonies with the precision equal to that of formal training.

I first saw them in the Masekela and James Ngcobo theatre production, Songs of Migration, which, as the name explains, is about the heritage of migrant songs.

Recently they featured in another theatre showcase, in choreographer and dancer Gregory Maqoma’s masterpiece, Exit/Exist, in which they soulfully remixed some of Simphiwe Dana’s music.

“I was introduced to them through a friend of mine, Sanza, who was one of the original cast members of King Kong, the musical in 1961. He’s originally from Pimville, Soweto, but has been living in the UK for 48 to 49 years now. But he bought a house in Randburg 10 years ago and someone from his church in England told him about this group, Complete. He found them and kept calling me for two years to listen to them. I went to his house one day and they were there.

“When you look at them you don’t think they can sing, because they look like thugs. But when they opened their mouths, my jaw fell to my knees. In my profession, you don’t sign a group after one song so I had them sing five songs and when they were done, I told Sanza: ‘Lock the door, these boys are not going anywhere’,” recalls Bra Hugh.

From then on they started working on the musical, Songs of Migration. Bra Hugh features Complete on his new recording which should release in the next few weeks and “they make us look good,” he says. But they have their own album in the pipeline.

With the 10-day recording with The Baobab Singers and Complete at his studio, Masekela wanted to capture the mood of the two groups and he features on the trumpet occasionally with the likes of Fana Zulu on the piano.

This combo is something that has never been heard before. And as he concludes, Bra Hugh says: “Spiritually I feel like this is something that wanted to happen, but was looking for its players.

“The world will want to see this.”