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Hugh Masekela to Launch UNESCO International Jazz Day


UNESCO and Herbie Hancock Announce the First Annual International Jazz Day

E Jazz News


UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock will collaborate with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz to celebrate and recognize jazz music as a universal language of freedom

March 21st, 2012. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock are pleased to announce International Jazz Day to be held April 30th of every year. In partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the initiative– Hancock’s first major program introduced as a Goodwill Ambassador–will encourage and highlight intercultural dialogue and understanding through America’s greatest contribution to the world of music. International Jazz Day will foster and stimulate the teaching of jazz education with a particular emphasis placed on children from disadvantaged communities in classrooms around the world and will be offered to all 195 member states of UNESCO.

Said UNESCO Director-General Bokova, “The designation of International Jazz Day is intended to bring together communities, schools and other groups the world over to celebrate and learn more about the art of jazz, its roots and its impact, and to highlight its important role as a means of communication that transcends differences”.

In an address to UNESCO officials, Herbie Hancock said, “Please take a moment and envision one day every year where jazz is celebrated, studied, and performed around the world for 24 hours straight. A collaboration among jazz icons, scholars, composers, musicians, dancers, writers, and thinkers who embrace the beauty, spirit, and principles of jazz, all of them freely sharing experiences and performances in our big cities and in our small towns, all across our seven continents.” He went on to say, “Music has always served as a bridge between different cultures; and no musical art form is more effective as a diplomatic tool than jazz.”

In anticipation of April 30th International Jazz Day, the celebration will kick-off on April 27th at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris with a daylong series of jazz education programs and performances. An evening concert will feature Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Marcus Miller, Hugh Masekela, Lionel Loueke, Tania Maria, Barbara Hendricks, Gerald Clayton, Terri Lyne Carrington, John Beasley, China Moses, Ben Williams, and Antonio Hart, and others to be announced. The daytime events will include master classes, roundtable discussions, improvisational workshops, and various other activities.

International Jazz Day will be celebrated by millions worldwide on Monday, April 30th and will begin with a sunrise concert in New Orleans’ Congo Square, the birthplace of jazz. The event will feature a number of jazz luminaries along with Hancock including Dianne Reeves, New Orleans natives Terence Blanchard, Ellis Marsalis, Treme Brass Band, Dr. Michael White, Kermit Ruffins, Bill Summers, and others.

The world-wide programs and events will conclude in New York City at the United Nations General Assembly Hall with an historic sunset concert certain to be one of the most heralded jazz celebrations of all time, with confirmed artists including Richard Bona (Cameroon), Dee Dee Bridgewater, Danilo Perez, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath, Zakir Hussain (India), Angelique Kidjo (Benin), Lang Lang (China), Romero Lubambo (Brazil), Shankar Mahadevan (India), Wynton Marsalis, Hugh Masekela (South Africa), Christian McBride, Dianne Reeves, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Hiromi Uehara (Japan) and others to be announced. George Duke will serve as Musical Director. Confirmed Co-Hosts include Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Quincy Jones.

The concert from the United Nations will be streamed live worldwide via the United Nations and UNESCO websites, and will also be post-broadcast on United Nations Radio.

Tom Carter, President of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, said, “The Institute is pleased to be a partner with UNESCO in presenting educational programs and performances as a part of International Jazz Day. For more than a century, jazz has helped soothe and uplift the souls of millions of people in all corners of the globe. It stands for freedom and democracy, particularly for the disenfranchised and brings people of different cultures, religions, and nationalities together.”

The objectives of International Jazz Day are to:

• Encourage exchange and understanding between cultures and employ these means to enhance tolerance;

• Offer effective tools at international, regional, sub-regional and national levels to foster intercultural dialogue;

• Raise public awareness about the role jazz music plays to help spread the universal values of UNESCO’s mandate;

• Promote intercultural dialogue towards the eradication of racial tensions and gender inequality and to reinforce the role of youth for social change;

• Recognize jazz music as a universal language of freedom;

• Promote social progress with a special focus on developing countries utilizing new technologies and communications tools such as social networks;

• Contribute to UNESCO’s initiatives to promote mutual understanding among cultures, with a focus on education of young people in marginalized communities.

The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz will work with UNESCO and its 195 various field offices, national commissions, UNESCO networks, UNESCO Associated Schools, universities and institutes, public radio and public television, as well as NGOs. Additionally, libraries, schools, performing arts centers, artists and arts organizations of all disciplines throughout the world will be encouraged to celebrate the day through presentations, concerts, and other jazz-focused activities. UNESCO will be sending recommendations for events, programs and support materials to its member countries and efforts are underway to raise funds for activities in developing countries where resources are limited. For example, in Brazil the Ministry of Culture will organize a nationwide program celebrating the history of jazz and its contribution to peace in all of its cultural centers; it is hoped that this will eventually be integrated into Brazil’s national educational curriculum. In Algeria, free jazz concerts will take place featuring groups from all over the country as well as conferences promoting “intercultural exchanges between jazz music and Maghreb music”; Russia will host various activities including concerts, photo exhibitions, lectures, virtual magazines and radio programs, while in Belgium the Conservatory of Jazz and Pop will organize outdoor daytime flash mobs/ concerts with Jazz students in bookstores, the Academy of Fine Arts and more. These are just some of the many local events that will be taking place around the world.

For more information about International Jazz Day, please visit the website at:

Heartfelt Tribute

The Citizen
Kulani Nkuna

SHOW: Tribute To Miriam Makeba – Cape Town International Jazz Festival – At the press conference ahead of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Hugh Masekela waxed poetic about his one-time wife Miriam Makeba.

ARTISTS: Hugh Masekela, Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa Mazwai, Zolani Mahola

VENUE: Cape Town International Convention Centre

Masekela talked about Makeba’s altruistic efforts dedicated to uplifting the African continent.

Most of this information was unsolicited from the press gallery, but perhaps Masekela felt the need to express Makeba’s influence on this platform as festival revellers might – at the show –have imbibed the nectar of the gods to a degree that made them unable to appreciate the message.

There was impatience in the ranks of partygoers bent on having a good time before the show. Any tribute to Makeba comes with the inherent assumption that there will be jiving amid nostalgic choruses.

The discerning music listener’s curiosity was piqued when the gig was announced. How would the distinct voices of Thandiswa Mazwai and Zolani Mahola (Freshlyground) blend together with that Vusi Mahlasela?

Masekela did not waste any time getting the crowd warmed up with one of his jive hits. In between his own two personal songs he peppered the audience with tidbits about Makeba’s life.

Then he introduced Mahola, Mazwai, and Mahlasela.

Mahlasela started off strumming When You Come Back with backing vocals from Mazwai and Mahola. Mahlasela then turn to Nakupenda Africa, which had revellers on their toes – Sophiatown-swing style.

Mazwai then had a chance to seize centre stage with a resounding performance of Ingoma, which had the audience jumping up and down, toi toi style, while Masekela’s trumpet added energy. Mazwai flexed her vocal chords and found new range during this performance.

Mahola started off the Makeba tribute with Meet Me At The River, sung in her distinct voice.

Mahlasela then tackled the Pata Pata with great voice alteration and control. But it was Mazwai, with African Sunset, who stole the show with a impassioned performance, and when she was done and returned to her backing vocal post, Masekela beckoned her to the front for more.

Hugh Masekela Launches Latest Album – Friends

Photograph by Jonx Pillemer

Bra Hugh blows in at 73

Mail and Guardian
Atiyyah Khan

Photograph by Jonx Pillemer

It has been a huge week for Hugh Masekela. Not only did he celebrate his 73rd birthday, but fresh from his performance at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, he launched a new album and a record label.

The album, Friends, which launched on Sunday at the ­Mahogany Room in Cape Town, is a four-CD box set featuring Masekela and American pianist Larry Willis. It is a collection of 40 American jazz standards reinterpreted by the two musicians, whose friendship dates back more than 50 years, hence the title. Willis was in the country for the launch.

The quiet intimacy of the launch was in stark contrast to Masekela’s jiving performance at the jazz festival the previous night, where he was joined by Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa Mazwai and Zolani Mahola, playing to thousands in a special tribute to the late Miriam Makeba.

As people squeezed into the Mahogany Room, which at capacity seats 50, Masekela said: “It might be a small premiere, but it feels like a helluva one.”

He is a great storyteller and, from the start, enthralled the crowd with gems of detail. “We met in 1961 at the ­Manhattan School of music. I had just turned 21. We both loved music and were drawn to each other. Larry was an opera singer and he was dressed like George Washington. I looked at him and asked: “Man, what are you doing?!” Masekela found out that Willis played piano and they spent afternoons in the Bronx performing together.

“We’ve recorded together over the years. But we haven’t managed to get rid of each other,” he said, followed by deep laughter.

“We’re going to do the compositions that affected our lives,” he said, and with that, the two began a journey that delved into their history. The set consisted of Hi-Fly by Randy Weston, Easy Living made famous by Billie Holiday, Fats Waller’s Until the Real Thing Comes Along and Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday. Each song told a new story. About soul group the Stylistics’ song You Make Me Feel Brand New, Masekela said: “I said to Larry, ‘It’s an old R’n’B song’, but he said, ‘We’re going to play it because it’s pretty.'”

He continued: “The most unforgettable person in the world of music, aside from Miriam Makeba, is a man who never finished a paragraph without mentioning New Orleans. If it weren’t for him, we’d all be wearing white wigs,” and he headed into When It’s Sleepy Time Down South by Louis ­Armstrong.

Almost like jazz

The set ended with Masekela singing one of his favourite songs, Hoagy Carmichael’s 1929 hit Rockin’ Chair.

When Masekela first recorded in the United States, music critic Leonard Feather said: “Hugh Masekela can’t play jazz”. “I told Miles Davis this and he said: “As long as Feather spells your name right, don’t give a shit about anything else,” he said. The album Almost like being in jazz, which ­featured Willis, was ­Masekela’s response.

Last year, Rashid Lombard, the chief executive of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, organised for Willis to perform at the festival. This coincided with Masekela’s nephew, Pius Mokgokong, building a studio on his farm in Pretoria and hence Friends was recorded there. Willis made six trips to the country to record the album.

Mokgokong initially built the studio at his home to practise music, but then decided to create a professional studio. When Masekela first visited it in 2010, he said: “Uncle, I’m going to dedicate this thing to you.” The album is the first to be released through the new record label, House of Masekela, of which Mokgokong is executive producer.

“Jazz artists die poor. We want to invest money in our musicians and make sure they benefit from their art,” Mokgokong said.

Friends is available countrywide and a Johannesburg launch of the album will be announced soon.

For sales information please contact

See more articles about Hugh Masekela

Hugh and Sal Masekela


Miss Ntertainment
Nadia Neophytou

There is a lot we know about Hugh Masekela’s story – about exile, about excess, about love, about jazz – much of which has been told through his excellent biography Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela. But there is still much more to be heard and understood, which is why I am looking forward to seeing the film Alekesam debut at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival.

It’s about the respected musician and how his exile from South Africa for over 30 years as a result of Apartheid impacted his relationship with his son, Selema Mabena Masekela, who we have come to know on TV as ‘Sal’. Masekela’s time in America saw him earn a number one hit with Grazin’ In The Grass in 1968, and Sal was born a few years later in 1971. Masekela left America – and Sal – to return to South Africa, where he would continue to play an important role in the struggle for freedom. 39 years later, the two confront the implications of the time apart that separated them, and the music that helped bring them back together.


Director Jason Bergh has said the film happened by a “beautiful, perfectly-timed accident,” in that it was supposed to be a short promo for Sal’s new album. He says it grew to become the most important project he’s ever worked on – the story of a father exiled from his country, and a son exiled from his father.

Alekesam screens at the TriBeCa Film Festival from the 19th to the 29th of April. To download a single from the soundtrack, visit here.


Hugh Masekela joins U2 in Johannesburg


The Examiner
By Jill Marino

“360” got off to a truly magnificent start last night, as U2 played to a whopping 98,000 fans in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“We know Jo’burg has a night life. We know Jo’burg needs to go a bit crazy,” Bono said to the crowd before U2 played “Crazy Tonight”. The record-breaking audience were treated to many surprises, including trumpeter Hugh Masekela playing with the band during “I Still Haven’t Found” and a special new lyric during “Pride”, as Bono sang a tribute to Nelson Mandela:

“February 13, 1990 / Words ring out in a Jo’burg sky / Free at last to live your life / The Lion of Africa and his pride”

The band also showed images of the recent events in Egypt during “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.

As for the rest of the setlist (via U2Tours), a lot of it resembled what they played last year in Europe and Australia. Songs like “I Will Follow”, “North Star”, “Miss Sarajevo”, and encore starter “Hold Me, Thrill Me” all made appearances. However, U2gigs is reporting that opener “Space Oddity” was cut and a “Get On Your Boots” remix was played instead. “Beautiful Day” opened the show, but unlike last year, it wasn’t introduced with “Return of the Stingray Guitar”.

Click here for video of “With or Without You” and “Moment of Surrender” from last night in Johannesburg. Check around the 7:45 mark when Bono asks for the lights to be turned down. What a beautiful image of those cell phones illuminating that stadium. It’s so great to see U2 back on stage and for giving fans a night that they will remember forever. I can’t wait for the North American leg to start!
Hugh Masekela surprised 98,000 U2 fans in Johannesburg last night when he joined the band onstage to play “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Check out the video here.

Umlando – Through My Father’s Eyes



ESPN to Present 10-Part Series During 2010 FIFA World Cup: Hugh and Sal Masekela Explore South Africa

ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup [] will feature a 10-part series that offers an introspective look at the country of South Africa through the eyes of one of the host nation’s renowned ambassadors. In Umlando (Zulu for “Through My Father’s Eyes”), jazz music legend and anti-Apartheid activist Hugh Masekela and his American-born son, Salema, an ESPN reporter for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, explore together the people, culture and inspiring landscapes of South Africa, and the nation’s history.

The series captures aspects of the elder Masekela’s life, from memories of his childhood and learning the traditions of his ancestors to offering his impressions of living in South Africa under draconian Apartheid laws. In Umlando, Sal, who serves as ESPN’s host for the X Games, joins his father to explore the 2010 FIFA World Cup host nation in one of American television’s first truly in-depth portrayals of traditional South Africa. The project also represents the first time the two Masekelas are partnering together on a major television project.

“Of all the special elements being created for our coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Umlando will be the most evocative and emotional,” said Jed Drake, ESPN’s executive producer, 2010 FIFA World Cup. “It is a rare and powerful opportunity to explore this remarkable place. Our viewers will find Hugh and Salema’s journey fascinating, and memorable.”

Sal Masekela added: “To take a road trip with my father through his native South Africa to get to know its culture and history has always been a lifelong dream. To be able to take the whole world on the journey through the watchful eyes of filmmaker Jonathan Hock has changed my life. South African people are as unique and diverse as the country itself. I know the World Cup audience will feel the same way after riding shotgun with us on this adventure.”

Umlando was filmed in locations across South Africa in March. The series of 4-5-minute features will debut on ESPN Friday, June 11, and will air during FIFA World Cup studio programming on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Mobile TV and ABC throughout the month-long tournament (June 11 – July 11). Features will also be available on’s FIFA World Cup site. []

Eight-time Emmy Award-winning director, writer and editor Jonathan Hock (Through the Fire, 2005 and The Streak, 2008) is producing Umlando. Hock’s last project for ESPN was The Lost Son of Havana (2009), the critically acclaimed documentary on Cuban-born pitcher Luis Tiant’s emotional return to his home country after 46 years in exile – 19 years of which he spent as a Major League Baseball pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and other teams.

Umlando – The 10-Part Series:

From LA to Ramogkopa: Sal Masekela embarks on his journey to South Africa from Los Angeles. Upon his arrival, he witnesses a special celebration at his father’s ancestral village of Ramogkopa, located on the Tropic of Capricorn. From his cousin, King Ramogkopa (a Botlokwa chief), Sal receives a gift bestowed only to members of the royal family. The village also performs traditional dances in honor of his visit.

Sharpeville: On the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre in this township near Johannesburg, Sal participates in the annual ceremonial “cleaning of the graves” where people gather at sunrise to pay tribute to the 69 people who were killed March 21, 1960, when the South African police opened fire on a peaceful anti-Apartheid protest.

Limpopoland: Beyond the city of Polokwane (a FIFA World Cup host city) is the Limpopo province where a resilient group of native Africans live with some autonomy, just as they did during Apartheid. Hugh takes his son to this region where the elder Masakela’s ancestors were master farmers.

Hopane’s Farm: Hugh tells the story of how his grandfather’s farm was confiscated by the apartheid government of South Africa after declaring it a ‘black spot’ in a ‘whites only’ area under The Group Areas Act (1950). With emotions and childhood memories from that experience still vivid, Hugh tells Sal it is a place he hasn’t been to in more than 60 years – a place where he will never return. Sal feels the need to go there on his own, with memories of a great-grandfather he never knew in his head as he gazes upon the land that used to belong to his family.

Township Jazz in Alexandra-Sophiatown: The hot-bed of South African jazz where Hugh’s music career began at age 14 – after he got his first trumpet from Archbishop Trevor Huddleston – the anti-Apartheid chaplain at St. Peter’s Secondary School. With the separation of races in educational institutions (Bantu Education Act of 1953), Huddleston closed the school. On the journey through Sophiatown, which was razed to the ground during Apartheid, Hugh points out the irony that the only building left standing is the church where Huddleston preached.

Witbank: Hugh’s birthplace and early childhood home, Witbank is a mining town about 90 miles east of Johannesburg. Hugh recounts comical and tragic childhood memories that inspired one of his greatest songs, “Stimela,” a narrative of the long train ride that brought migrant black coal mine workers from their rural homes to the mines.

Youth in Action: In an area where the HIV rate is over 80% among adults, Hugh and Sal visit with inspiring young South Africans trying to educate underprivileged children with hopes of brightening their future.

God’s Window: Sal journeys with Hugh to “God’s Window in Mpumalanga,” the third-largest canyon in the world and one of South Africa’s natural wonders.

In the Land of the Xhosa: Hugh leads Sal deep into the rural landscape to the hills where Nelson Mandela grew up. A Xhosa queen welcomes Sal, where he is dressed in traditional regalia, fed traditional food and home-brewed sorghum beer, and participates in the dances of the people.

Zulu Nation: Hugh and Sal visit a remote Zulu village where many still choose to live in “the old ways” of their legendary King Shaka – defiant and unyielding – miles beyond the nearest electricity and modern convenience.

About Hugh Masekela:

Legendary South African trumpeter, composer, singer, and anti-Apartheid activist
A member of South Africa’s first youth orchestra at 14.
He joined the orchestra for the musical King Kong in 1958
Left South Africa to study music abroad following the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, heading first to London, then to the United States where he enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music
1968 Grammy nominated song “Grazin’ in the Grass” sold more than four million copies
Released the critically acclaimed “Stimela,” a song about the coal train that transports black mine workers from the hinterlands to the mines, in 1994
1987 hit single “Bring Him Back Home” became an anthem for the movement to free Nelson Mandela
Masekela launched his first tour of South Africa in 1991. He has since returned and lives in South Africa

About Sal Masekela:

Host of ESPN’s X Games and Winter X Games
Co-host of E! network’s The Daily 10, a countdown of the day’s top 10 entertainment stories
Avid surfer action sports aficionado. Described by some as the face and voice of action sports
Co-founder of Stoked Mentoring, a U.S.-based organization dedicated to mentoring at risk youth through actions sports