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Bra Hugh Vouches for African Unity

Ghana Inauguration

21 January 2017
Sowetan Live
Lesley Mofokeng

 

I ask Bra Hugh if he’s on Twitter. He replies: “No, but I’m on Whatsapp.” I’m defeated.

He notices my disappointment and we burst out in laughter.

He may not be as tech-savvy and on top of social media trends as I would like him to be, and at 77 it’s kind of understandable. But Hugh Masekela is not shy to express himself.

We begin our quick chat in the comfort of his offices in chic Parkhurst, Johannesburg north. He’s just got back from Ghana where he performed at the inauguration of the new president Nana Akufo-Addo.

“He’s an old friend that I met through Fela [Kuti] in the 70s, because he was Fela’s lawyer. And I’ve watched him for 40 years aspire for this office because his passion for Ghana is so deep, and it’s a pleasure to finally see him get it.

“He lost twice in the last 10 years, the last time he lost by 20000 votes, but now he won by a million and half votes. Sometimes patience helps.”

Masekela is one of the greatest living musicians of our time, and he continues to release music. His newest is No Borders. He makes no apologies for being a proponent of Africa without borders.

“The music speaks for itself. You can feel geographically where we are most of the time. I’m very obsessed with cancelling the borders in people’s minds and let them get a sense of who they are.

“The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation does work in the historical space. Our people don’t know anything about themselves.

“Cancelling borders in our heads and nationalism will help us to get rid of xenophobia, especially if we knew our history because most of us re makwerekwere (we are foreigners) historically. I tell people when I’m on stage that us, the Masekelas taught the Batlokwa how to till the land, but originally we are the Munyepawu and come from Zimbabwe.

“Even in our praise singing it’s there.”

The album is an eclectic mix of sounds and influences, a nomadic journey from Cape to Cairo, Dakar to Addis.

He recorded Been Such A Long Time Gone first some 40 years ago on the album I’m Not Afraid, which had the original Stimela and The Marketplace.

“It’s like a trip from the desert right down. At the end it says right across the river Limpopo white soldiers standing in the road, then pop goes my dream, but I didn’t put that in because that was an apartheid reference.”

Congo Woman, is a delightful tribute to the DRC, the land of a thousand dances. In it he celebrates the dances – kwassa kwassa, rumba and others.

“I was inspired by Papa Wemba. There is a great album of his called Bakala Di A Kuba. In it he has this song where he sings with four other Congolese and they exchange parts, so I called my nephew and Kabomo and Tresor to put in the Congolese feel.”

Other feature are JSomething on Heaven In You, Oliver Mtukudzi on Tapera and Themba Mokoena on The Rooster and KwaZulu. It is produced by Kunle Ayo

Perhaps his most important recording is In An Age with his son Selema, known as Alekesam in Hollywood.

“He’s been a musician since he was a kid. When he started school he played the clarinet, the saxophone and has always been able to sing. He got together with Sunny Levin, who is my best friend’s son and they formed a group and Sunny wrote the song and they asked me to rap on it and put something in an African language, so I chose a Tswana verse.

“I’d like this album to have an impact on whoever is listening to it, a curiosity about Africa, and African history and the whole borders situation. It should awaken interest about our origins. And I hope they enjoy the music.”

In three months Masekela turns 78.

“I feel very fortunate. I was bewitched with music when I was a child and I ended up living in it. I never planned to get where I am today. I just went into it for the passion. And it brought me halfway around the world a few times.

He is thankful to have met some of the greatest people in the world thanks to his music.

“I was helped by a lot of people, especially Miriam, Father Huddleston, and Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. I was able to go to exile for 30 years and still come back home to see the change and the freedom of our people.

“I think we are in a disappointing era in our lives. What we hoped for for our freedom is not really taking place. I really hope everyone had the chances and opportunities that you and I have, at least to live a half a decent life. The truth is that the majority of our people are poor.”

 

 

Old Favourites in Thrilling New Guises

London November 2016

Hugh Masekela review – 4/5 stars

Robin Denselow
The Guardian

Ronnie Scott’s, London
At 77, Masekela still likes to surprise in this memorable return to the club he first played in the 80s.

‘This is a wonderful nightmare,” said Hugh Masekela, as he looked out at the Ronnie Scott’s crowd, “because nothing has changed.”

He first played here in the 80s, when he bravely insisted on a smoking ban. These days he concentrates on concert halls and festivals, so watching South Africa’s most celebrated musician return to this intimate venue 16 years after he last played here was a rare treat.

At 77, Masekela still likes to surprise. The set contained no songs from his forthcoming album No Borders; instead he concentrated on reworking old favourites.

Chileshe now began with a gently slinky township riff from his five-piece band, against which he demonstrated first his flugelhorn work and then his even more thrilling and versatile vocals.

When he moved on to Market Place, he switched from lyrical passages to bursts of rapid-fire scat in which he traded phrases with his remarkable guitarist Cameron John Ward.
Then came a thrilling treatment of Stimela, his pained lament for migrant workers, treated with train noises and other vocal effects, and a rousing, theatrical reworking of Fela Kuti’s Lady that switched from Afrobeat to a rock guitar workout.

There were no lectures about the state of the world or South Africa, but the finale was a reminder of earlier, more optimistic days, with a treatment of his Mandela tribute Bring Him Back Home that had the audience on their feet. It was a memorable return.

No Borders

hugh-masekela-no-borders-album-coverhi-res

Press Release
2 November 2016

World renowned trumpet and flugelhorn legend, Hugh Masekela returns with a fiery 44th album entitled ‘No Borders’.

Encompassing socio-political commentary, solid dance floor grooves and tender love songs, the 16 tracks move effortlessly through continental styles taking in Nigerian Afro-Beat, Congolese Kwassa Kwassa and South African Masqandi. From the opening angry salvo of “Shuffle and Bow” which evokes the American South and old plantation songs, to the haunting collaboration with Oliver Mtukudzi, “Tapera”, Bra Hugh shows that he’s lost none of his fire.

Recorded over a period of 9 months with producer Kunle Ayo, No Borders is a vibrant, bold and entertaining journey across various musical genres, featuring extraordinary collaborations. On the track “In an Age” Bra Hugh teams up for the first time with his US based son, Salema Masekela (AKA Alekesam), and the combination is thrilling. This song is also notable for Bra Hugh’s wild Zulu rap and was recorded in Los Angeles under the production guidance of Sunny Levine who also produced “One of These Days”. In another family connection, Sunny is the son of renowned producer, and Hugh’s long time friend and collaborator, Stewart Levine.

No Borders also includes the popular feel good summer single “Heaven in You” featuring J Something of Mi Casa and other tracks feature notable guests such as legendary South African guitarist, Themba Mokoena and Congolese singer, Tresor.

The album cover art shows a defiant Masekela showing off a pre-colonial map of Africa where no borders are represented, a state of affairs that is close to Bra Hugh’s heart. It is this theme that fuels the album’s pan-African feel, sound and vision.

At the age of 77 Bra Hugh is still blowing strong. No Borders looks set to return Bra Hugh to the top of the international charts.

In Africa We Are All the Same

uganda-airtel-hm

New Vision
Steven Odeke

South African legendary jazz artiste Hugh Masekela jetted into the country Monday night ahead of the “Jazz It With Airtel” concert slated for Friday at Kampala Serena Hotel.

The jazz concert to also mark 20 years of Uganda’s saxophonist Isaiah Katumwa in the music industry will offer Masekela his second performance in the country, since 10 years ago.

“The last time I was in Uganda, I had a great time and wondered why I never came back. Was it about something I said?” he joked, at the press briefing held on Tuesday at Serena.

The jazz stars pose for a photo with representatives of the event sponsors

“Uganda is a beautiful country and having this kind of collaboration with musicians like Katumwa helps us bridge boundaries in Africa.

“We are the same in Africa. We are a product of Africa and we need to start thinking about our children and ensure they retain their African heritage.

“The problem we have now is indigenous phobia that was created into us by people who are not even participating in our fights. We need to recognise that we are fighting for boarders that that are less than 200 years ago and were not created by us. We had great kingdoms that have since disappeared,” he said.

Katumwa was grateful for the opportunity to perform alongside Masekela and vowed to deliver a performance that will meet the expectations.

“There is reason I am African and I think such moment take us to our roots. You could not talk about jazz 20 years ago in Uganda but today here we are. I am happy for this.”

The show, sponsored by Airtel, Pepsi, International University Of East Africa and Serena, is expected to start at 7:00pm and take attendees through a rollercoaster of jazz music.

Masekela, a multi-instrumentalist and singer is regarded as one of the greatest jazz artistes from Africa and is famous for songs like “Market Place,” “Coal Train” and “Run No More.”

Zimbabwe – Bra Hugh in Epic Performance

The Herald

South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela lived up to his billing and left the crowd crying out for more at an epic performance at the 7 Arts Theatre in Harare last Saturday night as he dished out some of his yesteryear hits that have anchored his legacy.There is no doubt that Bra Hugh as he has grown to be known over the years is in a league of his own, but the only undoing of the brilliant show was perhaps the small cosmopolitan but appreciative crowd at the up market venue.

While jazz music has a distinct following of the mature discerning music lovers, the entry charges of between $80 and $120 must have definitely affected the turnout considering the prevailing economic conditions.

The jazz maestro trumpeted his way onto the stage with the popular song Sossie and that set the scene for the evening as he took the audience through a musical journey that featured most of his great hits including “Stimela”, “Khawuleza”, “Happy Mama”, “Lady and Thanayi”.

Dressed in all back, the 76-year old jazz master was in good spirits, having received a doctorate in music from Rhodes University the previous day and jokingly said that he had been sent by South African students to bring back the remains of Cecil John Rhodes who was interred at Matopos.

Bra Hugh was saying this in apparent reference to the ongoing campaign to remove or destroy colonial-era monuments down south. While commending the youth for their activism, he said there were more pressing issues that needed tackling.

The night of jazz organised by Ngoma Nehosho also featured Victor Kunonga and the Peace Band whose presence on stage was very brief and a spirited performance by award winning afro pop ensemble Mokoomba.

The energy and vibe of lead vocalist Mathias Muzaza left the crowd in awe as they churned hit after hit bringing out some distinct sound that could easily be mistaken to be West African or some other modern day genre.

There is just something about the Mokoomba outfit that hails from the banks of the Zambezi River and the international flair that they have managed to bring to the group. They are definitely in a league of their own and their professionalism raises the Zimbabwe flag high.

Back to Bra Hugh, besides dazzling the audience with his trumpet, his versatility as a percussionist was striking on stage alongside the other four members of his group, especially for those familiar with his music. Forget about the language barrier, everyone was singing along to some of the lyrics with the Cape Tonian flair and even some of the empty seats were a blessing in disguise as people danced on without anyone complaining about blocking their view.

Considering that the jazz maestro has a significant following in this country that he claims to be his origins, the organisers should perhaps in future consider making him more accessible through lower cover charges and accessible venues.

It was not surprising that shortly after 11 pm many left 7 Arts grumbling that the show had “prematurely” ended as some sought alternative venues to wind down the night.

Bra Hugh is great and that does not take a jazz connoisseur to convince anyone, but even good things should be shared.

Hugh Masekela Can’t Help But Make Political Music

Photograph by Brett Rubin

The Examiner
Roman Gokhman

Photograph by Brett Rubin

Internationally acclaimed trumpeter, flugelhornist and composer Hugh Masekela never chose to be the musical voice of a defiant South Africa.

“I was just a musician, making a living. And it was coincidental that I came from South Africa. You can’t come from a people whose resources you use and not talk about them. I never elected myself as the representative,” says Masekela, 75. “I came from a country and a community that was oppressed and grew up fighting that oppression. I was just one of millions of people.”

True – but Masekela is one of a handful of South African musicians to gain worldwide praise and attention. And his music has provided the soundtrack to the anti-apartheid movement.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary since the start of democracy in South Africa, and performing songs from the movement, Masekela and vocalist Vusi Mahlasela (known as “The Voice” in his native country ) are collaborating on a month-long U.S. tour, “20 Years of Freedom: featuring South Africa’s Freedom Songs,” that comes to Cal Performances in Berkeley on Wednesday.

Inspired by American jazz in the 1950s, Masekela began a five-decades-long career of music that protested apartheid and slavery, and portrayed hardships and hopes of an entire people.

In the U.S., he had Top 40 albums and hits including the No. 1 instrumental “Grazing in the Grass” in 1968. He recorded more than 40 albums and has worked with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.

Masekela moved to New York to continue his education after being forced from his homeland in 1960, when the increasingly brutal apartheid government banned public gatherings. He did not return until 1990, when Mandela and all political prisoners were freed.

“I started a career that I hadn’t planned, and it flowered and flowered,” he says. “I had a very successful exile.”

Even as Masekela’s music gave hope to millions, and his 1987 song “Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela)” became a worldwide rallying cry for the release of the country’s future president, he never envisioned a South Africa free from apartheid.

“What people don’t know is that from the time Europeans arrived in South Africa in 1652, until 1994, we were basically at war,” he says. “We grew up in (protests), marches and demonstrations, police arrests and then jumping fences. We grew up learning to outsmart them. They had to end (apartheid) because the country was finally rendered ungovernable by the people. Those people … and the ones who were killed … were the true heroes in the struggle for freedom in South Africa.”

South Africa Ubuntu Festival Kicks Off at Carnegie Hall

Photograph by David Cogswell

Travel Pulse
David Cogswell

Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela headlined the first concert in Carnegie Hall’s series “Ubuntu: Music and Arts of South Africa” Friday night, Oct. 10, at Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall. The concert was entitled “Twenty Years of Freedom” and was a celebration and commemoration of 20 years of constitutional democratic government following the downfall of the apartheid regime in 1994.

Also sitting in for part of the night were South African singer songwriter Dave Matthews and Somi, a singer songwriter born in Illinois of immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda.

The Ubuntu festival was produced by the Carnegie Corp. and others with support from South African Tourism and South African Airways, which were well represented in attendance among the community of friends of South Africa that gathered for the performance and the commemoration.

The Ubuntu festival will also incorporate other arts events at venues throughout the city.

The opening concert was dedicated to the triumph over apartheid, colonialism and racial discrimination and the overarching theme of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a southern African philosophy of community and roughly translates to “I am because you are.”

The Musical History of Struggle

Putting aside the songs from Masekela’s recording career dating back to his 1962 debut album “Trumpet Africaine” and through nearly 50 more albums he has released since, he and Mahlasela dedicated the evening to a historical review of South African popular music during the apartheid era in South Africa.

It began with “Meadowlands,” a gentle swing song dating back to 1956 in protest of the apartheid government’s razing of the thriving black cultural center of Sophiatown and forcibly relocating its residents to a newly developed suburb in the township of Soweto.
Masekela provided a narrative of South African history and the struggle for freedom of the native peoples since the first European incursion with the Dutch colony at Cape Town in 1652.

“For 350 years of struggle our people were never intimidated by the system,” Masekela told the audience. “We lived our lives trying to defeat the system.” In 1994 the defeat was finally achieved with the fall of the apartheid regime and the adoption of a new constitution that recognized voting rights for all South Africans.

As one of the most music-driven cultures to ever emerge on the planet, South Africa not only commemorated its history in song, it drove its revolution with song, and Masekela and Mahlasela retraced an outline of the history of the resistance to apartheid through some of the most memorable songs of the period, including Masekela’s “Bring Back Nelson Mandela” and “Stimela”, Mahlasela’s “When You Come Back”, and Johnny Klegg’s “Asimbonanga”.

Somi sat in on a performance of “Pata Pata”, a song made popular by South African singer and once wife of Masekela, Miriam Makeba, and the Swahili song “Malaika,” also recorded by Makeba.

Dave Matthews sang one of his songs and joined in on some of the others, including “Asimbonanga”. He came back to the stage for an encore singing “Sugar Man”, the song by Detroit singer-songwriter Rodriguez, which was a big hit in South Africa while remaining unknown elsewhere in the world, including the U.S., as shown in the film Searching for Sugar Man.

Carnegie’s Ubuntu festival will continue through Nov. 5 and will include performances by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, with Paul Simon sitting in, and a tribute to Miriam Makeba by Angelique Kidjo.

Photograph by David Cogswell

Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela

vusi_masekela

Live Review: The Egg, 7 October

9 October 2014
Metroland
Alexander M. Stern

For those of us who came of age in the ’80s, South Africa was the human-rights cause. College campuses were filled with signs urging divestment and condemning apartheid, the South African policy of institutional segregation. If you were in high school or college around the time the Boomers were celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Love, it seemed like our generation missed out on everything . . . almost. We may not have had an unpopular quagmire of a war to oppose (we’d have to wait until the 21st century for that), but there was still South Africa. Sadly, the support of international business made it seem like their unjust system would never end. The idea that deliverance was just a few years away seemed as absurd as . . . well . . . the Berlin Wall coming down or the collapse of the Soviet Union. Prophets we certainly were not.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the end of apartheid in South Africa, and to celebrate, legendary South African musicians Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela have embarked on a cross-country tour.On Tuesday night, Masekela and Mahlasela kicked things off in the Egg’s Swyer Theater. Performing before a near-capacity crowd, the two master musicians presented what Masekela described as a “cross-section” of music from the various cultures that comprise South Africa. As was fitting, most of the music was high-energy and positive.

Masekela is perhaps most famous in this country for his watershed appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 alongside Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, Otis Redding, and the Who, as well as his 1968 soul-jazz classic “Grazing in the Grass,” which Masekela played early in the evening. In addition to his mellow golden tone on the trumpet and flugelhorn—the latter of which was on display on Tuesday—Masekela also showed off his passionate vocals as well as contributing some tasty percussion. Masekela alternated between his horn and a spirited tambourine on several numbers, and also played the hell out of the cowbell. Christopher Walken was right: You’re really gonna want that cowbell!

While perhaps not as well-known in this country as Masekela, guitar virtuoso Vusi Mahlasela proved himself well-deserving of his equal billing. He opened the show with a solo number gorgeously performed on acoustic guitar. His intricate fingerpicking made an effective contrast to his versatile voice. Mahlasela whispered like the wind through tall grass and whooped like a bird breaking the stillness of the morning. He ululated and even performed some low-frequency overtone singing.

When the rest of the band joined for the second number, the atmosphere at once turned electric. Mongezi Ntaka played the electric guitar, employing the mandolinesque technique of rapid picking associated with township jive groups like the Boyoyo Boys and popularized in the West by Paul Simon’s Graceland album and groups like Vampire Weekend. Bassist Bakithi Kumalo—who actually played on Graceland—offered up his liquid fretless bass and funky slap technique. Percussionist Francis Fuster and drummer Ian Herman wove entrancing polyrhythms that had the audience grooving.

Many of the songs were in South African languages such as Zulu, and while Masekela and Mahlasela did a fine job of explaining the meaning and importance of each song, the message ultimately came through regardless of language or cultural context. Many of the songs were celebratory. Some were angry songs of protest. But all of it spoke to the unconquered spirit of the South African people, as well as reminding us that injustice has not retreated from the Earth. In a particularly affecting moment, Mahlasela spoke of the wisdom of forgiveness. After centuries of war and invasion, oppression and abuse, the South African people have enjoyed two decades of freedom.

“We’re not perfect,” Masekela observed, “But we’re not underfoot anymore.”

Carnegie Hall Kicks Off South Africa Festival

Photograph by Brett Rubin

Carnegie Hall is kicking off an ambitious, month-long festival dedicated to the music and culture of South Africa

The Wall Street Journal
Corinne Ramey

Apartheid.

The ghost of that word—its history, injustices and the need, for some, to move beyond it—is ubiquitous in the music of South Africa, a nation for whom music and politics are inextricably linked.

This year, the 20th anniversary of South African democracy’s beginning and apartheid’s end, Carnegie Hall wrestles with that legacy in an ambitious, month-long festival dedicated to the music and culture of South Africa. The programming ranges from jazz and classical to traditional and pop, and includes both South African stars—the male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and jazz greats Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim —and music rarely heard in the U.S., like that from the Cape Malay community, based in Cape Town. Paul Simon and Dave Matthews, who was born in South Africa, will also make appearances.

The festival, whose events take place at Carnegie and partner organizations including the Paley Center and Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, begins Wednesday and runs through Nov. 5.

Geographically themed festivals have been a Carnegie mainstay since 2007; recent festivals have been dedicated to Latin America and Vienna.

Africa, however, “had been conspicuously absent from the festival map,” Carnegie’s director of artistic planning, Jeremy Geffen, said in his office, which houses a menagerie of beaded South African figurines.

“We wanted to look at an African culture that had a really broad diversity,” he said. “Not just in terms of the ethnic makeup, but in terms of the stylistic diversity that would support a really in-depth examination.”

South Africa fit the bill. Carnegie dubbed the festival “Ubuntu,” a Nguni word commonly translated as “I am because you are.”

“Ubuntu is about humanity, kindness, love, compassion, respect, unity,” said the singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela. “It’s also about forgiveness.”

Photograph by Redferns / Getty Images
Vusi Mahlasela. Photograph by Redferns / Getty Images

Mr. Mahlasela, nicknamed “The Voice,” is a longtime anti-apartheid advocate. “With African democracy we say, ‘Invite everybody,’” he said. “Not just important people and business people, like other democracy outside Africa. We don’t leave anybody out.”

But concert curating, unlike democracy, must leave out somebody.

“Right now there is so much effort in South Africa in giving voice to people who didn’t have it,” said Mr. Geffen, who was born in South Africa and cast his first ballot in 1994, from Los Angeles. “So they are extremely politically correct. If we had left this in the hands of South Africans, they would have gone much more evenhandedly through to make sure that everyone was given a shot.”

He added, “that’s where as an outside curatorial voice, you have the opportunity to shape something.”

Much of what Carnegie Hall has shaped revolves around the voice, to which Mr. Geffen said South Africans are uniquely attached.

Two classical sopranos, Pretty Yende and Elza van den Heever, make their New York recital debuts. In addition to traditional Western fare, Ms. van den Heever will sing art songs by South African composers, in Afrikaans.

“When I left South Africa in 1998, I found myself really longing for South African songs, for my own language,” said Ms. van den Heever, recalling the joy of finding recordings of South African soprano Mimi Coertse. “She’s in a great way responsible for me wanting to keep these songs alive.”

Programming at other venues includes art by William Kentridge and a concert of current South African pop stars at the Apollo Theater.

The festival is unusual for bringing a broad swath of South African music onto one of the world’s most hallowed stages, and commendable for going beyond black and white and including the mixed-race choirs of the Cape Malay community, said Carol Muller, a University of Pennsylvania ethnomusicologist who was born in South Africa.

“But it is an unbelievably male perspective,” she said. “Where are all the South African women?”

Angélique Kidjo. Photograph by Redferns / Getty Images
Angélique Kidjo. Photograph by Redferns / Getty Images

Of the 18 concerts presented by Carnegie, only three are headlined by women: those of the two classical sopranos and that of the Grammy-winning singer Angélique Kidjo, who is from Benin. (A Carnegie spokesman said its festivals don’t strive to be encyclopedic.)

Ms. Kidjo’s concert pays tribute to the South African singer Miriam Makeba, a civil-rights activist and Ms. Kidjo’s personal mentor, credited with spreading African music internationally.

“Music is the most powerful tool to empower people,” said Ms. Kidjo. “How much political speech makes anybody happy? What gives people more political empowerment than music?”

“Ubuntu: Music and Arts of South Africa” runs Wednesday through Nov. 5 at Carnegie Hall and other venues:
212-247-7800
carnegiehall.org

Photograph by Brett Rubin

Oppikoppi Can’t Get Enough of Bra Hugh

Photograph by Alet Pretorius

The Times
Andile Ndlovu

Photograph by Alet Pretorius

When Hugh Masekela finished his Oppikoppi set to rapturous applause, a member of his crew wrapped a champion’s belt around his waist as if he was an undisputed heavyweight boxer.

He certainly played like a champ, with the agility and enthusiasm to match the young crowd he was playing for on the James Phillips stage on Saturday afternoon.

His hit single Thanayi, which closed the show, was a favourite and when he had taken the bow, the loud chants of “we want more” prompted him to return to the stage for a sing-a-long chorus.

But it was not just the young adults who loved him. One man walked away saying, “I feel good. My heart is connected again.”

Unfortunately local hip-hop star Cassper Nyovest’s 7pm performance on the Red Bull stage coincided with that of headliner Aloe Blacc, who was impressive with just keys, drums, sax and a guitarist backing him. In fact the American singer-songwriter’s only misstep was when, slap-bang in the middle of Northam in Limpopo, he told the crowd he was pleased to be playing in Johannesburg, except he was 250km from the City of Gold.

Songs off his latest album, Lift Your Spirit, proved most popular, particularly Soldier in the City, Wanna Be with You, Red Velvet Seat, and the smash hit Wake Me Up, which he co-wrote.

Blacc spoke extensively about spreading love and happiness.

This was the popular music festival’s 20-year anniversary, and the lineup struck a balance between mature and young – from Cat Power and Springbok Nude Girls to PHFAT, The Muffinz and Spoek Mathambo.

On each of the three nights, the Red Bull stage hosted many a drunk reveller – most of whom landed on their backs on the slippery surface.