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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.

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 Masekela at UNESCO International Jazz Day Launch

Photograph by Thos Robinson

Jazz Stars Enlist Star Reinforcements To Take On Rap


Photograph by Thos Robinson

UNITED NATIONS: Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Hugh Masekela starred at the finale concert for the first International Jazz Day in New York on Monday.

The music luminaries were joined by Hollywood giants including Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Robert de Niro for the multinational attempt at the UN headquarters to put jazz back on a global par with rap and rock.

“What it has communicated to the world is incredible. It’s the only language that is spoken by everyone all over the world,” said South African trumpet player Masekela backstage at the gala concert which also featured Wynton Marsalis, Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett, 91-year-old Cuban percussionist Candido Camero and Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang.

International Jazz Day formally started on Friday in Paris where many of the stars also performed. But the event has also seen special concerts in New Orleans and more than 30 other major cities around the world.

Marsalis, whose 78-year-old pianist father Ellis Marsalis played in New Orleans on Monday morning, said the event allowed musicians to come together as a community. “Jazz musicians are everywhere. We all know each other.”Lang Lang, who has made his name playing with the Vienna Philarmonic and other major global orchestras, said he wanted to help create a “ ‘new generation of jazz enthusiasts.’ For me, my focus is on classic, but I’m a big fan of Herbie Hancock,” said the Chinese classical star.

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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:

Hugh Masekela Launches Commonwealth Week


Commonwealth Theme

The audience swayed between listening in awed silence to singing, dancing and clapping, as Mr Masekela – considered one of jazz’s greatest horn players – filled the hall with his warm and energetic playing.

Mr Masekela is a South African musician of legendary stature, having been at the heart of South African music for over half a century. His music illustrates the diverse ethnic culture that his country is home to. An outspoken advocate for civil rights on both sides of the Atlantic, he has spent his career pushing both social and musical boundaries and continues to speak out for his country’s people and their culture.

As part of a week of activites organised to mark Commonwealth Day and its theme for 2012, ‘Connecting Cultures’, the ‘Celebrating the Commonwealth’ concert offered a glimpse of the rich culture and creativity the modern Commonwealth has to offer.

The host for the evening, comedian and broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli, said: “This evening epitomises everything the Commonwealth is about, bringing a diverse range of talents together.”

The audience was lifted to their feet by Mr Masekela’s singing that undulated between a soft and deep resonance. Each crescendo and beat change in the music was reflected in his facial expressions.

He played and danced alongside each band member, before singing to the cheering crowd and encouraging their participation.

“I’m taking you with us everywhere we are going,” he told the audience as they joined in.

“This could be your night to break out and let it rip. We know there’s people in here who’ve never screamed before so you’re about to change your whole life. Don’t bring down the ceiling,” he joked.

Joining him on stage were his band members: Cameron Ward on guitar; Randal Skippers on keyboards; Fana Zulu on bass; Francis Manneh Fuster on percussion; and Lee Roy Sauls on drums.

A child bounced to the rhythm produced on the fugelhorn as Mr Masekela filled the hall with its playful sound. Heads and bodies nodded and swayed to the beat.

“Surely you’ve had enough now?” he asked the audience.

“NO,” they responded.

The evening ended on old South African wedding songs with the entire crowd dancing, singing, clapping and waving together in unison.

Mr Masekela dedicated his performance to people looking for peace in their own countries and those affected by natural disasters.

“If it’s not too late, try to think about that [nature] and consider treating your environment a little better than you’ve been doing,” he added.

Preceding Mr Masekela was 28-year-old London vocalist Zara McFarlane, a rising star of the British jazz scene of Jamaican heritage.

With her band, Ms McFarlance danced as she sang vocals steeped in jazz with an undercurrent of rich, contemporary soul.

The audience was captivated by her voice, smoothly undulating between alto and soprano, and band members’ energetic solos.

Vijay Krishnarayan, Deputy Director, Commonwealth Foundation, said: “Tonight’s concert was a wonderful success. Hugh and Zara made from an impressive line up: two formidable artists engaging a packed house with rousing performances in celebration of the start of Commonwealth Week. We’re delighted to have had this opportunity to share a glimpse of the creative talent the Commonwealth has to offer and the power of culture as a force for social change.”

Hugh Masekela to appear at Ottawa Jazz Festival

Ottawa Examiner
By Dan Lalande

Fans of World Music, rest easy; you have not been forgotten – at least not by the upcoming TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival.

Looking to fill the void left by the abrupt and disappointing cancellation of Youssou Ndour’s Canadian tour, the fest has scored a major coup by bagging South African trumpet player and vocalist Hugh Masekela, thanks to a serendipitous gap in his schedule.

Masekela, who will be gracing the festival’s Canal Stage on June 28, was one of the first artists to bring worldwide attention to the scourge of apartheid, and his music continues to remind us of the tragedy and triumph of that struggle.

Yes, we’ve all seen political figures of note in Ottawa, from Prime Ministers to Presidents – but how many have sold millions of CDs, taken home a Grammy, and can still be called relevant well into their golden years?

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Sports of The Times

Opus3 Artists
By William C. Rhoden

Amid Cup Fervor, Revisiting Pain of Apartheid

My introduction to Hugh Masekela came in 1968. Amid great turbulence, assassinations and riots, Masekela’s hit single “Grazing in the Grass” became the breezy anthem of a hot summer.

Masekela, we learned, was the South African-born trumpet player who had come to the United States in 1960 to escape the tyranny of apartheid. Far beyond the pop appeal of “Grazing,” Masekela’s larger body of music reflected the agony, conflict and exploitation South Africa dealt with.

Our paths finally crossed last week. In conjunction with the World Cup, Masekela was in Manhattan to review the final edits of an ESPN documentary about his journey to South Africa with his son, Sal.

The piece is called “Umlando,” which is Zulu for “Through My Father’s Eyes.” It was shot over two weeks, and will be presented as a series of four-minute spots that will be broadcast during the World Cup, before and after matches. Some of the chapters are political, some are biographical — each one is breathtaking. And nothing can duplicate the experience of watching a documentary about Masekela with Masekela.

The thread connecting these pieces is the spirit of handing down: father taking his son back to South Africa, introducing him to townships and villages, filling him in on the history of his country.

In one shot, Masekela laments the scourge of AIDS, which has become the new apartheid, wiping out generations of young black South Africans.

He smiles as he watches himself interact with schoolchildren, dancing, playing his horn, exhorting students to “keep their spirit,” cautioning them against engaging in irresponsible sex.

For the next month, South Africans everywhere will be asked how they feel about the World Cup coming to their country. Many no doubt will talk about their pride, how they feel that a megaevent will give South Africa a chance to put its best foot forward before the world.

Not Masekela.

At 71, he has seen too much, been through too much, to be giddy.

“I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I can’t sleep at night because the World Cup is coming to South Africa,” he said. “I don’t look at it as a miracle. All these things revolve around people who can afford to go to the World Cup. There are 47 million people in South Africa, maybe 20 million of them are dirt poor; I don’t think the World Cup is even going to touch them. The realities of South African remain, regardless of big events.”

Those realities include HIV, AIDS, the aftershocks of apartheid, centuries of oppression. Masekela was born on April 4, 1939, in Witbank, and grew up playing soccer in rough-and-tumble Alexandra Township.

Masekela was 14 when the Bantu Education Act of 1953 was enacted, essentially establishing educational segregation. Black South Africans were taught blue-collar skills they could use in their Bantustan “homelands” or in manual-labor jobs controlled by whites.

Masekela left South Africa in 1960 at age 21. His journey led to fame, to alcohol and drug addiction, and back to his African roots.

In one of the more poignant pieces, Masekela is taking Sal on a tour of “God’s Window” in the Mpumalanga province. As they look out on the breathtaking panorama, Masekela says, “If you were a colonial conqueror and you saw this, would you want to go back to Europe?” They laugh.

Masekela said that since he left South Africa, he had seen very little of the country. “We were not allowed to come to these places, we were not supposed to know that it existed, otherwise obviously we would have been more furious,” he said.

He described the influx control, laws that were intended to keep blacks in the townships and regulate their movements “so that you don’t see how beautiful your country is,” he said.

“Because if they do, they’re going to get very angry.”

At that point, Masekela looked out over the vista and yelled, “But I’m angry now!”

The young and uninformed can watch the march of history and enjoy, as they might a parade, marveling at South Africa’s breathtaking beauty, its timeless splendor.

For many South Africans, progress continues to be an agonizing tangle of mixed feelings, old wounds still visible, new promise, resentment, a desire for peace and prosperity. And for Masekela, an intense desire to revive traditions among young South Africans, never letting them forget.

“Nothing can come to a place that has been beaten up for three, four centuries, come for a month and fix it,” he said. “It would be nice if the World Cup stayed in South Africa for 20 years.”

Masekela: still grazing.

South African musicians added to star-studded World Cup gig



(CNN) — International music stars Shakira, the Black-Eyed Peas and Alicia Keys will now be joined by several top South African names at the launch concert for the soccer World Cup in June.

Local artists had been upset that the host nation would not well-represented at the June 10 event after only three acts — BLK JKS, The Parlotones and folk singer Vusi Mahlasela — were named in the initial line-up.

But legendary jazz musician Hugh Masekela, the award-winning Freshlyground and Soweto Gospel Choir are among those added to the bill following a meeting with organizers last month.

Soweto’s Mzansi Youth Choir and Canada-based, Somalia-born hip-hop artist K’naan will also now appear at Johannesburg’s Orlando Stadium the night before the month-long tournament kicks off.


Hugh Masekela

“As South Africans we are proud to be hosting the first ever World Cup on African soil,” the 71-year-old Masekela told the South Africa Organizing Committee Web site.

Hugh Masekela: The sound of South Africa

“I am very humbled and flattered to be part of this global event and am looking forward to the concert with great interest and excitement.”

Freshlyground, five-time South African Music Award winners, will perform the tournament’s official anthem “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)” with co-collaborator Shakira, the multi-million-selling Colombian singer.

K’naan’s Canadian hit “Wavin’ Flag” has been remixed into a bilingual English-Spanish song which is Coca-Cola’s official World Cup tune.

Other featured artists include blind Mali duo Amadou & Mariam, 2008 Grammy Award winner Angelique Kidjo of Benin and six-time recipient John Legend of the United States.

Hugh Masekela’s Johannesburg

Shakira’s platinum-selling compatriot Juanes is also on the bill along with Tuareg group Tinariwen and their fellow Malian Vieux Farka Toure.

“We wanted to have an eclectic, international mix of music genres to appeal to as many people as possible around the world whilst at the same time showcasing the immense home-grown talent of the host country,” said Niclas Ericson, director of TV for world soccer’s governing body FIFA.

The concert will be broadcast live worldwide, with profits going to FIFA’s project to build 20 centers across Africa providing education, healthcare services and football training to disadvantaged communities.

Orlando Stadium, in the suburb of Soweto, is also being used as a training facility for World Cup teams.

SA to celebrate 16 years of freedom



Pretoria – This year’s national Freedom Day celebrations will be held at the Union Buildings, Cabinet announced on Thursday.

Briefing the media following Cabinet’s meeting, government spokesperson Themba Maseko said the day will give South Africans the chance to reflect on the path to building a united, non-racial, non-sexist country.

This year’s theme will be ‘Together deepening our democracy and celebrating our Freedom’.

“The thousands of South Africans who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to ensure freedom for all will be remembered and honoured,” said Maseko.

He said it will be a day to remember that nation building requires every South African, young and old, to recognise and live by the principles enshrined in the Constitution.

As part of the celebrations, President Jacob Zuma will confer National Orders on both international and South African citizens who have distinguished themselves by contributing to democracy and freedom in South Africa and the world.

Accomplished musician Hugh Masekela will be among those bestowed with orders and so will FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos. Blatter however will not be able to make it to the ceremony.

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System