Hugh Masekela, who has been respectfully acknowledged as the “father of South African Jazz,” has died. The family announced the trumpeter’s passing after a long battle with prostate cancer.
Masekela’s foray into music began when he was a teenager in South Africa, and his music reflected his strong anti-apartheid views. After becoming a member of Africa’s first jazz group, The Jazz Epistles, Masekela eventually fled the country as tensions grew after a terrible massacre of Black South Africans and an increasing presence of apartheid.
While living in the United States, Masekela aligned with Harry Belafonte and found success in states in the 1960s and 1970s. Although he wasn’t a huge chart success, Masekela was an especially prolific artist and performer who worked with other jazz ensembles. In all, he recorded well over 40 studio albums and collaborated with a wide range of artists including singer-songwriter Paul Simon among others.
Masekela, like his African jazz counterpart the late Fela Kuti, would have his music sampled by Hip-Hop artists and producers over the years. Talib Kweli, The Roots, Madlib, and Nice and Smooth all borrowed from his vast catalog at one time. And one of his hits, “Bring Him Back Home,” became an anthem to free the late anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in 1987.
Masekela was 78.
Take a listen to one of Masekela’s biggest hits, “Grazing In The Grass” from 1968, below. Underneath and on the following pages, we’ve amassed a few condolences for the jazz legend.