If jazz music needed a international representative then trumpeter Hugh Masekela would be it’s ideal spokesperson. For well over 50 years Mr. Masekela has played for endless kings, queens, presidents, and other important heads of states all over the world. In fact, on April 30th, on the first International Jazz Day concert held at the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York City, Hugh was one of many jazz musicians from all over the world that took to the stage and showed the world how this music has been a major impact to musicians like himself.
Most importantly Mr. Masekela’s music spoke of the freedom, struggle, and hope that suppressed the people of his native country of South Africa under the government’s oppressive Apartheid race laws for over 60 years. The music and his passion for the people have made him a icon globally.
Hugh Ramopolo Masekela was born on April 4, 1939 in Witbank, South Africa. As a child he listened to American jazz music via 78 records of musicians like Louis Armstrong, The Mills Brothers, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman. It was the movie “Young Man With a Horn” with Kirk Douglas on the life of trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke that inspired the musician to take up the trumpet. He was given his first trumpet by his chaplain while a teen.
While growing up in Johannesburg, Hugh learned to play the trumpet and technique from Uncle Seuda, a member the “Native” Municipal Brass Band. He and other teenagers formed the Huddleston Jazz Band, the first youth jazz band in South Africa. Around 1960 Hugh would meet pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and form a group called the Jazz Epistles that were heavily influenced by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. The Jazz Epistles were the first South African group to record a jazz record in their country.
In 1960 Hugh left his native South Africa and moved to London and eventually relocated to New York City where he attended the Manhattan School of Music where he studied classical trumpet.
Throughout his career he’s performed and befriended some of rock, jazz, and world music icons like Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock, Miriam Makeba, James Brown, and The Crusaders just to name a few.
Hugh has a brand new record out he recorded with the great Larry Willis on piano titled “Friends” on his own House of Masekela Records label. The four CD set features the duo playing standards as well as disc features them being accompanied by a band. Currently he’s about to go on the road in support of his latest disc. To find out his upcoming club dates please visit Hugh online at griot.de/hughmasekela.html.
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