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STIMELA – A Hugh Masekela Exhibition by Brett Rubin

Stimela  - Social Media Assets

Stimela - Social Media Assets

The seminal Hugh Masekela song Stimela (The Coal Train) forms the basis of this posthumous exhibition celebrating the life and works of Hugh Masekela.

Stimela, with its stark and visceral lyrics is one of the pinnacles of Masekela’s contribution to South African music and culture, and according to Andries Bezuidenhout, a professor of developmental studies at Fort Hare University, reminds everyone that South Africa’s wealth and infrastructure was built on the back of labor from all over Africa. They were the force that modernized the country.

The emergence of modern South Africa came about as a result of the discovery of diamonds and gold, and the need for cheap labor to extract metals from the seams that ran through the Witwatersrand’s rock formations. The exhibition imagines this world so graphically portrayed by Stimela, set in the treacherous conditions of the brutal and dangerous South African migrant labor system that relied so heavily on the coal trains to bring and send back the cheap labor central in the development of Johannesburg’s vast mining and mineral extraction wealth accrued during Apartheid.

Masekela has commented that the “train was South Africa’s first tragedy.” His words express the pain of exploited mineworkers, and the separation and loss of family members who sometimes never returned home from work as a result of death or finding another loved one. According to Johannesburg-based art historian and writer Percy Mabandu, ‘Stimela is an ominous delineation of the dramas of economic displacement in all their dreaded glory. In Masekela’s languid libretto, the train is a cold and monstrous thing. He links it to the loss of land, home and livestock for the migrant mineworkers. By the time Masekela reaches for his horn to serve his melodic statement, the song begins to shore up the coal train as the handmaiden of the colonial assault. A lamentation!’

Born in the coal-mining town of Witbank (now Emalahleni – place of coal), a hundred miles east of Johannesburg, Masekela’s hometown harbored a large conglomeration of migrant laborer’s from Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and many other parts of Southern Africa.

During his childhood, Masekela’s Grandmother ran a Shebeen where miners would spend their weekends drinking and telling their miserable stories of the underground life in the mines.

Years later, Hugh Masekela transformed their stories into the compelling ‘Stimela’.

This was a story of cheap labor demands and the intervention of colonial administrations and armies across southern and Central Africa. They dispossessed pastoralists of their land and imposed hut and poll taxes on traditional leaders so that Johannesburg could be supplied with the much needed “Black Gold”, as journalist-activist Ruth First once described the migrant-labor system.

Stimela describes what’s on the minds of mining recruits on a steam train as it makes its way to Johannesburg.

For Masekela, writing “Stimela” must have been, in part, a reflection on his own life and the pain and sacrifices endured during a lengthily exile.

Hugh and Brett


(b. 1939 Witbank, South Africa – d. 2018)

Born in the small mining town of Witbank, South Africa on April 4, 1939, Hugh Ramapolo Masekela was “bewitched” by music at an early age. Convinced that the musicians were contained in his uncle Putu’s 78rpm gramophone, Hugh took piano lessons at 5, received his first trumpet in 1954, and more famously, a week after his seventeenth birthday, received a trumpet from Louis Armstrong. Apprenticing his way through the South African music scene from the Father Huddleston Jazz Band, to playing as sideman in many of the great bands of the day, becoming bandleader of Alfred Herbert’s famed African Jazz & Variety, copyist (with trombonist Jonas Gwangwa), and trumpeter with the groundbreaking South African jazz opera King Kong; trumpeter, along with revered South African alto saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi and Jonas Gwangwa, on American jazz pianist’s Johnny Mehegan’s South African Gallo sides Jazz In Africa (volumes 1 & 2), and later, with Kippie Moeketsi, Jonas Gwangwa and Abdullah Ibrahim (then Dollar Brand), Johnny Gertze and Makhaya Ntshoko, forming and recording South Africa’s first all-African bebop band The Jazz Epistles – Jazz Epistle: Verse 1.


After leaving, South Africa Hugh Masekela began his schooling at the Manhattan School of Music in September of 1960. In 1968 he recorded the million-seller LP The Promise Of A Future, which featured the chart-topping mbaqanga tune “Grazing In The Grass”. In 1973 Masekela embarked on an African cultural excursion which would produce such songs as “Ashiko”, “The Boy’s Doin It”, “In The Marketplace”, “Soweto Blues” and the anthemic ‘Stimela’.

In 1987 he recorded and released the Mandela-inspired anthem ‘Bring Him Back Home’, and participated as a featured artist, along with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Miriam Makeba on the triumphant global Paul Simon Graceland Tour. Later that year, he would be musical director on the smash Broadway musical Sarafina!.

In September of 1990 he returned to South Africa, after thirty long years, whereupon he embarked on the countrywide homecoming Sekunjalo tour. Masekela continued to perform locally, on the African continent, and throughout the global music circuit. Beloved the world-over from Stockholm to Senegal, Hugh Masekela passed on from this life on January 23, 2018.



(Founded in 2015)

Founded by Mr. Hugh Masekela in 2015 the Foundation is a registered Non-profit Company – NPC 2015/241347/08

The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation exists to preserve and promote African heritage and contribute to the restoration of African Identity.

From his birth to his passing Hugh Masekela’s most ardent passion was the restoration, promotion and evolution of African identity, heritage and culture. The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation is an expression of that passion, that legacy, through the creation of cultural information facilities, the support and incubation of heritage arts, and the dissemination of this information and cultural inheritance throughout the African Diaspora and the world. The Foundation’s specific focus is in the areas of African History and Languages, Genealogy, Inter-generational Communication, Music, Dance, Theatre, Literature, Visual and Culinary Arts.



Rubin (b. 1982 in Johannesburg) holds an Honours graduate degree in Film, Media & Visual Studies from the University of Cape Town (2005).

Working and assisting as a photographer in various industries, he opened a photographic studio in Cape town in 2007 until 2010. He relocated to Johannesburg in the same year and continued to work as an independent photographer.

In 2012 Rubin was appointed the official photographer for jazz icon Hugh Masekela until Masekela’s passing in 2018. Highlights of this period include photographing the final two Hugh Masekela album covers, directing two music videos (one a tribute to photographer Alf Kumalo); and having a portrait of Masekela included in the Carnegie Hall collection.

Rubin continues to consult and work closely with the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation.



Assupol & The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation present The Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival 2020 Online. Sunday 13th December. On

“My biggest obsession is to show Africans, and the world, who the people of Africa really are” – Hugh Masekela


In the midst of the COVID 19 storm, a musical and cultural oasis of relief, the Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival 2020 Online, brings Bra Hugh’s eclectic and broad vision of South African, and African, culture, music, and heritage. Presented by Assupol, and produced by Semopa Entertainment, this year’s festival will be a free access online affair available on on Sunday the 13th of December at 8pm.

Established in 2015, reflecting Bra Hugh’s lasting commitment to preserve and promote African heritage, tradition and identity, the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation, with Assupol, is proud to be part of the sixth instalment of the Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival. Hosted by poet and cultural activist Natalia Molebatsi, the festival is a platform to grow and promote heritage and culture, and our ever-evolving diversity, to, and through, a cross-generational, cross-cultural audience.

“Now, more than ever, is a time to remember who we are as Africans, in our heritage, our culture, and our identity – all day, every day.”  – Festival co-organiser, Mabusha Masekela

Our second festival since Bra Hugh’s passing in 2018, it will feature a stellar set of musicians, poets and dancers including vocalist Gloria Bosman and Congolese star Tresor, 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist Award recipient trumpet player Mandla Mlangeni and rising star of the SA jazz scene, vocalist Zoe Modiga, recently featured on the cover of the international Songlines magazine. Sio, Selema.Writes and praise poet Matalane Mokgatla represent our gifted tongues of spoken word, with Gregory Maqoma’s Vuyani Dance Theatre and the Tsonga-rooted Bungeni Xikhulu Dance Group sharing the rhythms of their movements in dance.

“Assupol has supported the Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival for several years because of the synergies between our mission of serving those who serve and our passion for honouring heritage. We see the value in Bra Hugh’s desire to preserve and celebrate African heritage and we are proud to have added power to his cause through our support of the Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival. With the festival being broadcast online, Bra Hugh’s vision is amplified to a bigger audience–we encourage everyone to tune in,” said Velmah Nzembela; Head: Group Corporate Affairs, Assupol.

Date:  Sunday 13th December 2020

Time: 8pm

Where: Online –


Instagram: HughMasekela / HMHF_za

Facebook: HughMasekelaza / HughMasekelaHeritageFoundation

Twitter: @HughMasekela


Bra Hugh’s Thuma Mina calls to We, The People of South Africa


Hugh Masekela’s Thuma Mina – (Send Me) – The People’s Version will be released across all digital platforms on Friday, September 11, in Heritage month.  Thuma Mina is a call to the people of South Africa to stand up collectively for change.   

In the song Thuma Mina (Send Me), Hugh Masekela pens the lyrics “I wanna be there when the people start to turn it around”, which rings true to the very first words in South Africa’s Constitution, “We, the People”.

The people of South Africa are facing tremendous challenges in the face of COVID-19,  such as severe poverty, a compromised economy, lack of access to healthcare and education, corruption and gender-based violence. Together, with a little help from some friends, Constitution Hill in partnership with the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation, have joined forces to produce a collaborative re-working –The People’s Version –  of the late, great Masekela’s anthemic Thuma Mina. The People’s Version strives to mobilise the citizens of South Africa into action, in support and empowerment of one another.

“It is not the size of the problems we must take into account, but rather our will, the people’s will, to create and manifest solutions, and our preparedness to scale those solutions across our diverse South African communities,” says Dawn Robertson, CEO of Constitution Hill.

A host of celebrated South African musicians, affectionately dubbed The Masekela All-Stars, collaborated on this noble vision to foster social cohesion and empower the people. Vocalists include the legendary Abigail Kubeka and Vusi Mahlasela, with the younger generation of stars represented by Thandiswa Mazwai, Zolani Mahola and J’Something. Bra Hugh’s nephew Selema Writes, adds a new fresh and fitting rap, that calls on South Africans to take action against gender-based violence.

Graced with the talents of Masekela’s last touring band, Johan MthethwaFana Zulu, Cameron WardGodfrey Mgcina and Leeroy Sauls, a horn section from the  Marcus Wyatt-led Bombshelter Beast, arranged by SAMA award winner Zwai Bala and produced by Grammy Award winning South African producer JB ArthurThuma Mina – The People’s Version, brings a vibrant, upbeat, can-do twist to Bra Hugh’s original – a burst of Hugh-inspired energy around which to organize, support and empower each other –  South Africans facing forward with indomitable spirit and innovation.

The music video includes a host of local heroes who have already heeded the call and selflessly served vulnerable fellow South Africans through the crisis. The video will go out with a practical call to download, share and live the values of our Constitution.

And now, a movement of active citizens, championed by Constitution Hill and The Masekela All-Stars, is forming under the banner of ‘We, the People’ to motivate, inspire and harness the power of each and every South African to come together and build a society steeped in human dignity, equality and freedom for all.

Rooted in the preamble of our Constitution, Thuma Mina – The People’s Version, is a call to take personal responsibility – to “improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person”, and to stand together as we do it. It is a clarion call to dispel our despondency and disillusionment, and instead stand together and find solutions to the challenges we face.

Dawn Robertson, CEO at Constitution Hill Development Company, explains the significance of the Thuma Mina call-for-change coming from Constitution Hill, “Constitution Hill serves to champion social cohesion in South Africa. It is the home of the voice of the people and the vessel of our beloved Constitution. The call –Thuma Mina – is to encourage our citizens to live the values of our Constitution and come together in the face of crisis with the strength of the culture of Ubuntu. Now more than ever, we need to call out to each other to come together and play our part.”

The ‘We, the People’ movement is inspired by the first three words in our Constitution which is the vision document for South Africa. “It demands of us to roll up our sleeves and to do the work to make the vision real. We must honour those who made the sacrifice by playing our part. Together we can build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations! If not now, when? If not me, who?,” says Constitution Hill Trust trustee Robert Brozin.

This call reflects the original intent of Bra Hugh. At the time of Thuma Mina’s first release, the HIV/Aids pandemic was ravaging the county and the government was in deep denial. This was his call to the people, for the people. The newly added rap lyrics address the other South African pandemic, namely gender-based violence, as prevalent now as it was then.

In its original release Thuma Mina, was Bra Hugh’s call for the people to take charge of our constitutional values and rights – values he was personal witness to on 10 December 1996. As President Nelson Mandela signed our Constitution into law in Sharpeville. On that same stage Bra Hugh performed igniting  the South African spirit.

Arundhati Roy remarks, “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” Thuma Mina – The People’s Version is but one, powerful, step through that portal into a South Africa we always believed to be beyond our grasp, only because we left it in the hands of others and mistaken our power for theirs.

Together the people of South Africa, with commitment, discipline and love, can create solutions of support and empowerment through, not just the current pandemic, but also an as yet undisclosed future of prosperity, good will and well-being.

The call then, and the call now, is for the people of South Africa to embrace the values of our constitution, step up and be the catalyst for a people’s movement that will “start to turn it around”. Sharing resources, healing, building and nurturing a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. It’s time for each and every South African to ask: “If not now, when? And if not us, who?” It is time for We, the People to take the lead.

The project was facilitated by Flame Studios, the state-of-the-art recording studio hub currently being built in the ramparts of the historic Old Fort at Constitution Hill. Studio director Lance McCormack explains: “This was the perfect inaugural project for Flame Studios, fulfilling our purpose to give new voice and agency to the people of South Africa while transforming a heavy and foreboding space with the power of music, creativity and passion.”

For more information go to

hashtags #WeThePeopleSA #MasekelaAllStars #ThumaMina #SendMe



 Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill is not only the home of the Constitutional Court, it is also a living museum that serves as a lekgotla where people can come together to address their concerns and discuss burning issues. It is a global beacon for human rights, a vantage point that gives an understanding of our society in transition and a place to celebrate the diversity of our nation.

Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation

The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation exists to preserve and promote African heritage and to contribute to the restoration of African identity through the creation of cultural information facilities, the support and incubation of heritage arts, and the dissemination of this information and cultural inheritance throughout the African Diaspora and the world.

Flame Studios

Flame Studios is a state-of-the-art recording hub being built beneath the ramparts of the Old Fort on Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. These studios are a contemporary expression of the new spirit and direction of the Constitution Hill precinct, a place designed to amplify the voices of South Africa’s new generation of musicians, artists and storytellers. Operated as a not-for-profit, Flame Studios will be available for commercial hire, while focusing intently on developing local talent through accessible facilities and mentorships. Meeting a world-class standard, Flame will also provide a platform for international talent to collaborate with the South African music industry.

Comments from artists

Zolani Mahola

“You can send me. I want to be there for my people. Thuma mina.”

“Josh called me up to collaborate…it was an immediate yes. I said I’ll be there. It was my first COVID flight.”

“You are of this country. You have a tremendous role in making it the country that you want it to be.”

“That hard-fought constitution is alive and well. It’s not just a piece of paper. It’s something that must be lived and breathed by all of us. Standing here (at Constitution Hill), it’s amazing to see how the past, the present and the future are all coming together.”

“I feel like I am part of a long line of really strong people who used their voices. Like Bra Hugh and Mandela who filled these halls. And I’m also connected to these young people who don’t feel like they have a voice, I would like to say to them – you do have a voice – we need you to make this work, to build our perfect vision.”

Leeroy Sauls

“He (Hugh) was more about the message than the music.”

“In these times, we’ve got to show empathy and patience to each other. We’ve got to lend a hand, lend an ear. We can be there for each other.”

“We love him (Hugh) and just want to spread love and good vibes.”

Zwai Bala

“Just like the message, the new arrangement is all about paying it forward.”

“The new arrangement references church songs, struggle songs, marching bands through Alexandra – we want you to get that feeling – to say: ‘Yes, this is our song.’”

“It’s got a very live community song vibe. Makes you just wanna sing and dance along. It reminds us that we are still together.”

Thandiswa Mazwai

“The new energy, impetus, push (of the arrangement) gives you the energy to just go out and do something.”

“(When I first heard the song) I felt like this was a message that I could follow.”

“It’s infectious. Makes you want to be more and do more for your community. Love can change things. That’s what this song is about. If we embody that message, we can be there for one another.”

“All that is bad about the world is coming to a climax now. It’s a moment to reflect and come back to ourselves, and see how we can change the world. New worlds have to be imagined now.”

“This place (Constitution Hill) represents what has happened and what we hope to be. It is so powerful to film our hope of how we want to transform the world here. This is the place that can make that happen. The Constitution lives here. The Constitutional Court lives here. This is the place where we can change the world for the better. Let’s reimagine what these walls can create.”

Abigail Kubeka

On discussing the song with Hugh Masekela when it was first released: “It’s about time that you realise that this industry isn’t just about us; it’s about the people. We have to include the people in what we are doing. Something came into my mind to say, we are sending you – to the people to spread the gospel. All these years, we have been doing this for ourselves, for our own enjoyment – now we have to move to the people.”

On being asked what Bra Hugh would think of this new version of Thuma Mina. “He’s smiling in his grave. (Saying:) ‘That’s it. I did it and I’m doing it again!’”

Selema Writes

“When you hear the song – know that you can be there for somebody else. What is humanity without connection?”

“A call for us to forget about our egos; stretch out your hand to your sister, brother and ask them: ‘Is there anything I can do for you? I am here for you.’”

“Music should be a tool that eases people’s hearts.”

Mabusha Masekela

“People come out for Hugh. That’s one thing I’ve realised.”

“Hughie always stood up for the oppressed. For poor people.”

“Now we can take care of each other.”

“Reach out and be a human being on a round planet – where there is no top or bottom.”

Lindo Langa
Video director and grandson of Pius Langa – Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court

“It feels like coming home to do this project.”

Josh Georgiou
Hugh’s manager

“Spread the laughter. Spread the knowledge. That’s the way we can empower people. Every day in our lives.”

Godfrey Mgcina

“Everybody needs everybody now. You need someone to lift you up. You need to lift someone up. We all need to be in the mode of saying – send me.”


Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela Lead Photo 1 (low res) - credit Brett Rubin & Bernard Benant

Having first met in the 70s thanks to their respective close associations with Fela Kuti, Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela talked for decades about making an album together. When, in 2010, their touring schedules coincided in the UK, the moment presented itself and producer Nick Gold took the opportunity to record their encounter. The unfinished sessions, consisting of all original compositions by the pair, lay in archive until after Masekela passed away in 2018. With renewed resolution, Tony Allen and Nick Gold, with the blessing and participation of Hugh’s estate, unearthed the original tapes and finished recording the album in summer 2019 at the same London studio where the original sessions had taken place. According to Allen, the album deals in “a kind of South African-Nigerian swing-jazz Afrobeat stew”. Allen and Masekela are accompanied on the record by a new generation of well-respected jazz musicians including Tom Herbert (Acoustic Ladyland / The Invisible), Joe Armon-Jones (Ezra Collective), Mutale Chashi (Kokoroko) and Steve Williamson.

Out March 20th on CD, 180g heavyweight LP and digital, via World Circuit Records.

Preorder or pre-save the album now and listen to first track ‘We’ve Landed’:


Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship

Photograph by Brett Rubin

 The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation, Manhattan School of Music and The ELMA Music Foundation 


The Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship

Through this partnership, Manhattan School of Music will provide full scholarships to six South African music students enabling them to pursue Bachelor of Music degrees at MSM, Hugh Masekela’s alma mater.

hm-bbcApril 3 2019, Johannesburg – On the occasion of what would have been his 80th birthday, the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) and The ELMA Music Foundation, in partnership with the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation, will, on April 4th, announce the establishment of the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at MSM in honor of the legendary South African musician, activist and life-long advocate, and embodiment, of African identity, heritage and expression.

The scholarship will allow six South African students to pursue Bachelor of Music degrees at Manhattan School of Music, one of the world’s leading music conservatories, and Masekela’s alma mater. The scholarship, which will cover tuition and all living expenses for each of the six scholarship recipients for their full four years of study, will be announced at the Jazz Foundation’s annual gala in New York, which this year will honor Hugh Masekela’s life and legacy. Mr. Masekela, who died on January 23rd, 2018, studied classical trumpet at the MSM from 1960 to 1964.

A principal goal of this new endeavour is to ensure that the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship be awarded to South African students who have faced significant social, educational, cultural, or economic challenges, and who have a demonstrated interest in the advancement of music consistent with Mr. Masekela’s legacy and vision.

“We are enormously grateful for this scholarship grant and deeply honoured to be working with The ELMA Music Foundation and the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation to provide an educational and musical home to six South African students whose presence at the School will stand testament to Hugh Masekela’s vision and talent,” said MSM President James Gandre. “He is one of MSM’s most distinguished alumni, and this is an apt extension of both his musical legacy and the important work that he did during his lifetime on social initiatives benefiting South Africans. The Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholars will be warmly welcomed to a vibrant community of aspiring young musicians who come to the School from 45 countries around the world.”

“We are especially thrilled to honour the legacy and work of this renowned musician and freedom fighter by establishing with Manhattan School of Music and the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation an important new scholarship in his name,” said Tarik Ward, Director, Music Programs, The ELMA Philanthropies. “This scholarship not only honours the great artist’s legacy but also nurtures the next generation of South African musicians and upholds his vision to preserve and promote African heritage, culture, and identity.”

“It is with gratitude and appreciation that we at the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation enter into this partnership with The ELMA Music Foundation and Manhattan School of Music,” said Prof Louis Molamu, Chairperson of the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation. “We look forward to forging ahead into an exciting musical scholarship reflective of Hugh Masekela’s extensive, voracious and prodigious musical appetites and his passion for inter-generational creative collaboration.

“My biggest obsession is to show Africans and the world who the people of Africa really are.” – Hugh Masekela

The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation will work with MSM to promote the scholarship opportunity in South Africa.


To apply, students should visit to complete an application. Applications are accepted from September 1st through December 1st.


Issued by Dreamcatcher on behalf of the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation:

Contact: Nomfundo Zondi 081 236 5047 / 011 447 5655

Marang Setshwaelo – 082 559 1802 /



From his birth to his passing Hugh Masekela’s most ardent passion was the restoration, promotion and evolution of African identity, heritage and culture. The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation is an expression of that passion, that legacy, through the creation of cultural information facilities, the support and incubation of heritage arts, and the dissemination of this information and cultural inheritance throughout the African Diaspora and the world. The Foundation’s specific focus is in the areas of African History and Languages, Genealogy, Inter-generational Communication, Music, Dance, Theatre, Literature, Visual and Culinary Arts.



Born in the small mining town of Witbank, South Africa on April 4, 1939, Hugh Ramapolo Masekela was “bewitched” by music at an early age. Convinced that the musicians were contained in his uncle Putu’s 78rpm gramophone, Hugh took piano lessons at 5, received his first trumpet in 1954, and more famously, a week after his seventeenth birthday, received a trumpet from Louis Armstrong. Apprenticing his way through the South African music scene from the Father Huddleston Jazz Band, to playing as sideman in many of the great bands of the day, becoming bandleader of Alfred Herbert’s famed African Jazz & Variety, copyist (with trombonist Jonas Gwangwa), and trumpeter with the groundbreaking South African jazz opera King Kong; trumpeter, along with revered South African alto saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi and Jonas Gwangwa, on American jazz pianist’s Johnny Mehegan’s South African Gallo sides Jazz In Africa (volumes 1 & 2), and later, with Kippie Moeketsi, Jonas Gwangwa and Abdullah Ibrahim (then Dollar Brand), Johnny Gertze and Makhaya Ntshoko, forming and recording South Africa’s first all-African bebop band The Jazz Epistles – Jazz Epistle: Verse 1.

Championed by Yehudi Menuhin, Johnny Dankworth, Johnny Mehegan, Harry Belafonte, and Miriam Makeba Hugh Masekela began his schooling at MSM in September of 1960. It was at MSM that Hugh would form lifelong musical, and familial, bonds with fellow MSM students Stewart Levine and Larry Willis. Marked by the kaleidoscopic template established during his South African apprenticeship Masekela’s recording and performance career are imbued with a tapestry of diasporic African musical heritage, traditional South African music, Jazz, Brazil, Spanish Latin America, R&B, Motown, Mbaqanga, Rock & Soul, Afrobeat, and musical theatre. Beginning with the West Coast success of the East Coast live recording The Americanization Of Ooga-Booga, Hugh variously performed at the first Watts Jazz Festival, featured on The Byrds “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, featured at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, established, with Stewart Levine, Chisa, a music production house that featured the talents of The Crusaders, Letta Mbulu, Monk Montgomery, Stu Gardner, Peter Fonda and Gram Parsons; recorded the million-seller LP The Promise Of A Future, which featured the chart-topping mbaqanga tune “Grazing In The Grass”.

In 1973 Masekela embarked on an African cultural excursion that included organizing the Zaire ’74 musical festival meant to accompany the Rumble In The Jungle, performing at various African state fund and consciousness-raising events including FESTAC ’77, composing and producing Miriam Makeba, most prominently her 1978 Country Girl LP release, and producing 6 seminal works, in a unique musical idiom that would long be featured in his performance including, ‘Ashiko’, ‘Languta’, ‘In The Marketplace’, ‘Rekpete’, ‘The Boy’s Doin’ It’, and the audience anthem ‘Stimela’. Ever the creator in motion, the late 70’s would find Hugh teaming with Herb Alpert to produce their self-titled Herb Alpert/Hugh Masekela and Main Event Live. December 1980 would find Masekela performing a Christmas concert in Lesotho with Miriam Makeba. Recorded in Botswana in 1984, using a mobile recording studio, Techno-Bush would find Masekela back in the US dance charts with ‘Don’t Go Lose It, Baby’, held out of the top spot by Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’. 1987 found a London-based Hugh Masekela recording Tomorrow which featured the Mandela-inspired anthem ‘Bring Him Back Home’, in the heat of the worldwide Anti-Apartheid movement. 1987 also found Hugh Masekela, along with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Miriam Makeba as featured players on the triumphant global Paul Simon Graceland Tour. Following the first leg of Graceland Tour, Masekela was a seminal contributor to the music of Mbongeni Ngema’s Sarafina! including it’s titular song, inspiration for the character.

In September of 1990 he returned to South Africa, after thirty long years, whereupon he embarked on the countrywide homecoming Sekunjalo tour. As a now local South African artist Hugh Masekela found success with songs like ‘Chileshe’, ‘Thanayi’, and ‘Send Me (Thuma Mina)’ as well as theatre productions like Songs Of Migration. As a working musician Masekela continued to perform at various local festivals, on the African continent, and throughout the global music circuit including the US, the UK, Brazil and Japan. It would be impossible include the breadth of Masekela collaborative partners and recordings credited and uncredited, although some of these would include Stewart Levine, Larry Willis, Randy Crawford, Ivan Lins, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba, Baobab Singers and Dave Grusin. Beloved the world-over from Stockholm to Senegal, Hugh Masekela passed on from this life on January 23, 2018.



Founded as a community music school by Janet Daniels Schenck in 1918, today MSM is recognized for its more than 960 superbly talented undergraduate and graduate students who come from more than 45 countries and nearly all 50 states; its innovative curricula and world-renowned artist-teacher faculty that includes musicians from the New York Philharmonic, the Met Orchestra, and the top ranks of the jazz and Broadway communities; and a distinguished community of accomplished, award-winning alumni working at the highest levels of the musical, educational, cultural, and professional worlds.

The School is dedicated to the personal, artistic, and intellectual development of aspiring musicians, from its Precollege students through those pursuing doctoral studies. Offering classical, jazz, and musical theatre training, MSM grants a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees. True to MSM’s origins as a music school for children, the Precollege program continues to offer superior music instruction to 475 young musicians between the ages of 5 and 18. The School also serves some 2,000 New York City schoolchildren through its Arts-in-Education Program, and another 2,000 students through its critically acclaimed Distance Learning Program.



The ELMA Music Foundation invests in organizations that use music to improve youth outcomes in the United States. The ELMA Music Foundation has four principle focus area – Music and Youth Development, In-School Music Programs, Music in Early Childhood Development, and Music and Opportunity Youth.

Grantees include The Mama Foundation for the Arts, a cohort of community-based organizations that form The Music and Youth Development Alliance, the GRAMMY Music Education Coalition, Harlem Children’s Zone, Mind Builders Creative Arts Center, and Creative Solutions.

A message of Gratitude from the Masekela Family on the occasion of Hugh Masekela’s birthday


(Photo: Brett Rubin)

40 days ago, on the 23rd of January 2018, we lost our beloved Hugh Ramapolo Masekela. He succumbed after a courageous battle with prostate cancer. It was never an option that he would concede to death and up until the very last week of his life, he carried on as though he would live forever.


Today as we observe, what would have been his 79th Birthday, we turn again to all the wonderful people here at home and all over the world who wrote tributes to mark his contribution to the world of music and culture, to the many who remarked on his love for his country South Africa and how he had shaped his career to give glory to the courage of his people and to give voice to the struggle against apartheid. Reading through the messages we received it is astonishing to consider where he found the time to maintain the friendships he had cultivated with people he had encountered on his travels.


We turn also toward his spirit of generosity for recognising and developing talent wherever he encountered it, irrespective of the paucity of resources to do so. He just did not believe any obstacle was insurmountable. By the end of his life he had worked with many mega talented artists, many of whom he had discovered and mentored as youngsters, but his best friends numbered in equal numbers his peers with whom he had studied and played with in the many bands he formed during his lifetime.


We return again and again to his life of reinvention. From trumpeter, to musician, composer, arranger, impresario, producer, musical theatre to cultural heritage champion, to writer and educationist. His honorary degrees from UNISA, York, Natal and Wits Universities attest to his success in driving an active and curious mind.


We know that he was a tireless and disciplined worker who expected the same from his colleagues. We understood too, that this was in part an effort to make-up for the time of his extreme alcohol and drug abuse, that led to his entering rehabilitation. He never regarded as time lost forever. In the same way he was sure that exile could never have deprived him of losing his identity. Rather he believed that it had enriched his understanding of the connections between people from all over the world and that there should be no borders, especially among people of African descent on this continent and in the diaspora.


So today we want to thank everyone who helped us through the early days of grief. We are bereft, but not of friendship, not of fellowship, not of kinship and not of human kindness.


To all the people who took care of us at The Pines, a special thank you. We will never forget the efficiency, patience and sheer human affection extended to us. Not even a single complaint from a single one of them. A great South African team!


We say Thank-You too, to the medical doctors who, even in our time of grief, remained steadfast, to the musicians and students, the painters and poets, the religious leaders, the graffiti artists, the DJs, the taxi drivers and the nannies and friends, and everyone who loved Hugh. Their actions spoke of the abiding human link with no borders.


We are grateful to the Traditional Healers Association, especially to Chief Tseane and his ensemble of healers and musicians for a cathartic and still reverberating, send-off for our beloved.


Not least, we thank the Gauteng Provincial government and the Department of Arts & Culture whose assistance allowed us to commemorate Hugh at memorials in the townships of Alexandra and Soweto and through whose cooperation we were able to realise his desire for a traditional funeral.


In the coming months we will be working on several projects aimed at extending Hugh’s legacy through, amongst others, the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation. Included in our plans is the unveiling of a memorial at his grave site on what would be his 80th birth anniversary.


We hope to maintain contact with all those who wish to remain appraised of the Foundation’s ongoing work and we welcome your cooperation and assistance.


Any individual or organization interested in further information on projects of or making financial contributions to the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation please go to or

A Celebration of a Life Well Lived

Ramapolo Hugh Masekela

4 April, 1939 – 23 January, 2018

 (Johannesburg, South Africa, 25 January 2018) It with profound gratitude that the family of Hugh Masekela and the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation acknowledge the outpouring of condolences and tributes paid to the late artist and activist from members of the public and the media – your loving words, the sweetness of your messages, the heartfelt posts on social media, commemorative front-page stories and countless radio and TV tributes, are all received with the utmost appreciation.

The support and encouragement we have received from Bra Hugh’s larger community across the continent, worldwide, and the Local, Provincial and National Departments of Arts & Culture, have been equally heartening, and have strengthened us in this difficult time.

The week ahead represents a time for all of us to say our final goodbyes to Bra Hugh – as such, there are events planned where media and members of the public are invited to commune, share memories, and bid farewell to this incredible artist, composer, activist and exemplar of Pan-African excellence.

The three public events will roll out as follows:


Hugh Masekela Heritage Park

The Hugh Masekela Heritage Park is an audiovisual celebration of Hugh Masekela’s life, chronicling his six-decade tenure as an artist and social, political and cultural activist. A temporary visitors centre of sorts, the Heritage Park will feature visuals, footage and audio that reflect Masekela’s rich and inspiring life journey.

Venue: Zoo Lake, Parkview – Johannesburg

Date: Friday, 26 January – Thursday 1 February, 2018

Time: 10h00 – 18h00 daily.


Heitada Alex! – Going Home 

A commemoration of Hugh Masekela’s life, hosted in Alexandra township, the home where he began his incredible journey in music. Friends, the artistic community and family will share their memories of this musical titan.

Venue: Sankopano Community Centre, Corner 12th Ave & Selborne St  – Alexandra, Johannesburg

Date: Friday, 26 January 2018

Time: 13h00


Hugh Masekela Musical Memorial

The final public tribute to Masekela, the event is a musical celebration of this legends life, featuring a range of artists he collaborated with, influenced and loved.

Venue:  University of Johannesburg – Soweto Campus, Chris Hani Rd, Soweto.

Date: Sunday, 28 January 2018

Time: 12h00



**The funeral service will be held as a farewell for family, relatives and close friends  **


Twitter, Instagram & Facebook – @Hugh Masekela



Released on behalf of the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation by Dreamcatcher



Marang Setshwaelo – 011 447 5655 / 082 559 1802



Sbu Mpungose 011 447 5655 / 072 522 9675




The World Celebrates Hugh Masekela


Image (673) Image (674)


Condolences from Empassy of Japan


The Guardian
Tributes paid to South African musician and activist Hugh Masekela

Paul Simon, Miriam Makeba, HM
1987: Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and Paul Simon
Photograph by Phil Dent/Redferns

South Africans have paid tribute to Hugh Masekela, the legendary jazz musician and activist, who died on Tuesday aged 78.

The South African president, Jacob Zuma, said the nation would mourn a man who “kept the torch of freedom alive”. The arts and culture minister, Nathi Mthethwa, described Masekela as “one of the great architects of Afro-Jazz”. “A baobab tree has fallen,” Mthethwa wrote on Twitter.

A statement from the trumpeter’s family said Masekela “passed peacefully” in Johannesburg, where he lived and worked for much of his life, on Tuesday morning.

“A loving father, brother, grandfather and friend, our hearts beat with a profound loss. Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memories of millions across six continents,” the statement read.

Relatives described Masekela’s “ebullient and joyous life”.

Masekela had been suffering from prostate cancer for almost a decade. He last performed in Johannesburg in 2010 when he gave two concerts that were seen as an “epitaph” to his long career and played at the opening ceremony of the football World Cup. Masekela toured internationally until 2016.

South African social media was flooded with tributes to “brother Hugh”, whose career and work was closely intertwined with the troubled politics of his homeland.

The singer Johnny Clegg described Masekela as “immensely bright and articulate … an outstanding musical pioneer and a robust debater, always holding to his South African roots.”

Masekela was born in Witbank, a mining town in eastern South Africa, and was given his first trumpet by the anti-apartheid activist archbishop Trevor Huddleston, who formed a pioneering jazz band in Soweto in the 1950s that became a launchpad for many of South Africa’s most famous jazz musicians.

Masekela went on to study in the UK and the US, where he had significant success.

As well as forming close friendships with jazz legends such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, Masekela performed alongside Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s.

He returned to Africa where he played with icons such as Nigeria’s Fela Kuti, and in 1974 he helped organise a three-day festival before the “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing clash in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

In 1976, the man who became known as the father of South African jazz composed Soweto Blues in response to the uprising in the vast township. He toured with Paul Simon in the 1980s while continuing his political engagement, writing Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela) in 1987. The song became an anthem of the anti-apartheid struggle.

James Hall, a writer and broadcaster who spent time with Masekela in the 1990s, said he “could have prickly personality” at times “due to the tension and frustration of being away from his own country for so long”.

Masekela was briefly married to Miriam Makeba in the 1960s and remained on good terms with the South African singer after their divorce. “They had a wonderful friendship and were very, very close,” said Hall, who co-wrote Makeba’s autobiography.

Masekela refused to take citizenship anywhere outside South Africa “despite the open arms of many countries”, said his son, Selema Mabena Masekela, on Tuesday.

“My father’s life was the definition of activism and resistance. His belief [was] that the pure evil of a systematic racist oppression could and would be crushed. Instead he would continue to fight.”

After more than 30 years in exile, Masekela returned to South Africa in the early 90s after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the end of apartheid.

Masekela had many fans overseas. “Hugh Masekela was a titan of jazz and of the anti-apartheid struggle. His courage, words and music inspired me … and strengthened the resolve of those fighting for justice in South Africa,” said Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter.


Hugh Masekela: ‘A disarming smile, sharp wit, and music that seemed sculpted from gold’

Fellow musicians remember instrument shopping, eating Chinese food and – even – getting on the wrong side of the legendary trumpet player


Soweto Kinch, saxophonist

Hugh Masekela was that rare combination of musicianship and integrity: he created music that perfectly encapsulates a period in time, a movement for freedom and the spirit and hopes of a people. But, however much his music bristles with protest, in person he was always so calm and collected, and although his stately manner let you know you were in the presence of greatness, he was always approachable.

He had a disarming smile and a sharp wit, and often wisecracked about the irony of me, a “London boy”, being called Soweto, but I have no doubt that he valued the name my parents had given me, and understood his own role in bringing the story of the Soweto Uprising to international attention.

He achieved the holy grail of being technically accomplished but also the creator of a wholly original style of trumpet phrasing. His way of repeating rhythmical motifs, his driving sense of beat and his unique tone were infused with distinctive African qualities, making music that was instantly recognisable as his own. On stage, he was completely grounded – he never over-played, or needed prove anything. We travelled to Paris, Budapest and London for 2006’s Jazz Odyssey tour, and, night after night, with an economy of both movements and notes, he’d produce music that seemed sculpted from gold. Just hearing a few notes I could imagine what the shebeens of 1950s Sophiatown might have felt like. He’s birthed generations of artists in South Africa and beyond, determined to fuse jazz and other genres with a very personal experience and culture.

I learnt from Masekela’s music and his words, but also from how he chose to live his life. Examples of his principled stance on things were born out by his life choices. He never returned to live in an ethically compromised “New South Africa” as the reality of inequality and economical hardship had strayed so far from the ideals. He always made time for fans – staying behind after shows to meet them, many of whom, like him, had been in long exile from Apartheid South Africa. And, like the greatest bandleaders, his spirit, generosity and warmth infused all the musicians in his band. I’ve rarely played with a group who were so keen to swap stories, share music and encourage each other. I always left our musical encounters feeling emboldened to follow my own direction.

Yazz Ahmed and Leigh McKinney by Yasmeen Ahmed
Hugh Masekela, Yazz Ahmed and Leigh McKinney
Photograph by Yasmeen Ahmed

Yazz Ahmed, trumpeter

In 2015 I was invited to play at a private party where, unbeknown to me, Hugh Masekela was the guest of honour. I performed a version of Scarborough Fair from the balcony overlooking the guests, and, afterwards, Hugh made his way up the stairs to introduce himself. He was charmingly complimentary about my sound, and very curious about my flugelhorn, and asked if he could try it. He brought the room to a hushed silence as he started to play.Naturally I knew Masekela as one of the great trumpet players of the jazz world but, perhaps because I had just turned seven and was still living in Bahrain when Nelson Mandela was released, I didn’t know about his importance as a protester and campaigner. But I began to understand what a great man he was later that same evening, as he spoke about his life, his struggle and his music. I was inspired by his passion and particularly struck by the choice he made to play music that was personal to him and his South African heritage.

Masekela had been so impressed by the few notes he played on my horn that he decided he wanted to buy one for himself, and later that month we went together to the Eclipse Trumpet factory in Luton to chose him a flugelhorn. It was lovely spending time with him, playing to each other and getting geeky about all things trumpet. He even signed the wall in the factory, a tradition started by the master instrument maker Leigh Mckinney, who delivered Hugh’s newly made flugelhorn to him at the Love Supreme Festival just a few days later.

Later that year I got to see him performing at the Barbican where he sang and played his heart out, telling more stories about his incredible life. He filled the hall with his joyful sound, accompanied only by a pianist, and held the audience in the palm of his hand.


Jason Yarde, composer, arranger, saxophonist

The world has lost one of its greatest musical communicators, human rights activists, and biggest smiles. Everywhere I went in London on Tuesday I seemed to hear Hugh’s music. Dare I say the only positive side-effect in the passing of the greats is that the airwaves generally improve for a period of time as we remember the extraordinary music left behind?

I first worked with Hugh Masekela back in 1995 as a member of a group called the London Afro Bloc. We were essentially the backing band for both him and another musical giant, Manu Dibango, who were performing as part of Africa Expo. I’ll never forget the “WTF?” look on Hugh’s face when we met for our first and only rehearsal on the day of the performance and the true stripped-down, no-harmony-instrument-in-sight nature of our lineup was revealed. He was clearly expecting something else and let his concerns be known in no uncertain terms. Mr Dibango smoothed things out and everything went ahead fine, but I was left with the impression that Mr Masekela was certainly not someone you’d want to upset.

Some years later I was asked to arrange some music for a concert that would feature Gary Crosby’s Big Band Jazz Jamaica Allstars and a choir alongside Masekela’s voice and horn. I reminded him that we had worked together nine years before. He remembered the occasion, if not me. “I was a different person then” he said. He’d clearly been through some transitions and dark times but had come through the other side – with the help of Tai Chi and family, he told me.

We spent many days together, working on arrangements, rehearsing singers, he ordered us Chinese food (there was no time to cook), and we travelled across East London visiting schools. On every occasion, his commitment to the song, to inspiring the kids, and to instilling in everyone the importance of doing a great job was unwavering.

The next time we worked together the ante was upped once more. When invited to perform his first full orchestral concert with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican one of the conditions he set out was that I would be responsible for all the musical arrangements. Added to this the orchestra commissioned me to write a Flugelhorn concerto for Masekela to play with the orchestra. For me, he is one of a handful of trumpet players who ‘owns’ the sound of the Flugel in the same way Miles Davis ‘owned’ the sound of the Harmon muted Trumpet. My concerto, All Souls Seek Joy, was premiered in 2007 and was partly shaped by my response to spending time in South Africa and being overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the place.

That same programme featured also Stimela, Masakela’s anthem telling the story of the train taking migrant workers to the deep, dirty work in the mines. You can hear years of struggle alongside immense hope and joy in his voice. No matter how many times I heard his impression of train whistle it always went straight to my heart.

Masekela managed to cram such a multitude of lives into his 78 years. He was the man child who discovered the trumpet just at the right time and chose that over certain trouble. He was endorsed by jazz legends Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. And then the politics – how could any musician in South Africa, especially a black one growing up with Apartheid, not be a political figure? Of course he pushed against this terrible agenda over many years in exile. And then there is the romance – he and Miriam Makeba were the original black music power couple way before the Jay-Z/Beyonce era.

It’s traditional to say rest in peace on these occasions and Bra Hugh truly deserves the rest, but I dare say if he’s able this unquenchable spirit will at least on occasion do his stage shuffle and blow his horn.


More from The Guardian:

Masekela’s life and career – in pictures

Hugh Masekela obituary: jazz pioneer who fought the evil of apartheid

10 Key Performances, from Afrobeat to Apartheid Anthems



AFRIMA Celebrates the Life of African Music Icon, Late Hugh Masekela

The International Committee of AFRIMA (All Africa Music Awards) celebrates the life of an African music icon and activist, Hugh Masekela as he passed on peacefully at his country home, Johannesburg, South Africa after a protracted battle with prostate cancer on January 23, 2018 at the aged 78.

Masekela was nominated for three nominations at the 2017 AFRIMA Awards in the categories of ‘Best Male Artiste in Southern Africa’ for his recent single ‘Shango’, ‘Album of the Year’ for his recent album ‘No Borders’ and for the ‘Best Artiste in African Jazz’. These three nominations show that the legend waxed strong till his last breadth. Masekela was scheduled to be at the host city, Lagos, Nigeria, for the 2017 AFRIMA Awards in November but was unable to make it due to his ill health in spite all his efforts.

The President and Executive Producer, AFRIMA, Mike Dada, stated that “it is a huge loss for the  continent and African music. Masekela’s music had the depth, the lyricism and the instrumentation that place the legend in the class of world music classics with a definitive signature of its African sound. The music icon will be greatly missed but his music and struggle for free and prosperous Africa will always be in our hearts and minds.”

Masekela gained global recognition with his distinctive Afro-Jazz sound and hit song-Soweto Blues. He creates music from his Africa’s experiences andis known for excellent use of trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone and cornet instruments.

Born in April 4, 1939 and ventured into music as a child when the anti-apartheid chaplain, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston gave him a trumpet as a gift. He found escape from the racial chaos in South Africa in his days with music. He later joined the Johannesburg Native Municipal Bras Band, Uncle Suada.In later years, Masekela studied the art of music in London’s Guildhall School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, New York.

The legend had released 49 Albums from the 1966 to 2016 and featured legends like Paul Simon, Lady Smith Mambazo, Mariam Makeba and others. He was nominated for the Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Pop Performance – Instrumental in 1968 for his single ‘Grazing in the Grass’, an anti-apartheid piece which sold 4 million copies among other nominations.

AFRIMA will pay tribute to Hugh Masekela in a glorifying spectacle at its fifth edition scheduled to hold in November 2018.


Family Statement

HM 2017_2

It is with profound sorrow that the family of Ramapolo Hugh Masekela announce his passing. After a protracted and courageous battle with prostate cancer, he passed peacefully in Johannesburg, South Africa, surrounded by his family.

A loving father, brother, grandfather and friend, our hearts beat with profound loss.  Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre, and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memory of millions across 6 continents and we are blessed and grateful to be part of a life and ever-expanding legacy of love, sharing and vanguard creativity that spans the time and space of 6 decades.  Rest in power beloved, you are forever in our hearts.

We will, in due course, release details of memorial and burial services. Hugh Masekela was someone who always engaged robustly with the press on musical and social political issues. We laud the press for respecting his privacy through his convalescence, and during this, our time of grief. Our gratitude to all and sundry for your condolences and support.

Released on behalf of the Masekela family by Dreamcatcher



Marang Setshwaelo – 011 447 5655 / 082 559 1802



Sbu Mpungose 011 447 5655 / 072 522 9675