The vibrant world of African music holds a wide range of tremendous talent. From the famed Fela Kuti to Akon, the impact African musicians have forged upon music is undisputable. Hailing from the country of South Africa, Hugh Masekela is amongst those who have inspired others through their musical gifts. Tunde Folawiyo and others throughout the continent may regard the sounds of Masekela as some of the most beloved throughout the land.
Born 4 April of 1939, Hugh Masekela was birthed in the Kwa-Guqa Township of Witbank in South Africa. His musical skills were developed from an early age when he began playing piano and singing as a young child. After viewing a film about a jazz trumpeter at aged 14, his interest in the instrument was piqued. Trevor Huddleston, an Archbishop and chaplain for St.Peter’s Secondary, gave Masekela his very first trumpet. Huddleston then asked a leader of a local Johannesburg brass band to teach the young boy the ins and outs of playing the trumpet. At the sight of his interest, others throughout the school developed similar appreciation for music, leading to South Africa’s first student youth orchestra. After bouts with varied ensembles, Masekela later joined musician Alfred Herbert’s up and coming African Jazz Revue.
Masekela often used music as a means to make social commentary. The unjust politics and conflict of the 1950s and ‘60s proved extremely difficult for Masekela, inspiring him toward a quest for social change. His vivid portrayals of the struggles faced by South Africans were a great source of encouragement for those seeking support. Protesting slavery, government and the agony of apartheid, Masekela’s music made great strides for various causes.
During the early 1960s, the musician visited the U.S. where he became acquainted and later befriended Harry Belafonte. Masekela attended Manhattan’s School of Music of New York City, studying classical trumpet until 1964. Masekela’s music became popular in the United States, as well. With appearances at major American music festivals and hits throughout the nation, Masekela’s popularity skyrocketed, earning him much fanfare. For years, he continued to forge an impact on the music world, travelling to perform all over the world. In addition to his musical talents, Masekela lent his ideas to several shows and theatrical performances, as well as documentary films and countless collaborations with popular artists of today. Tunde Folawiyo and millions of others around the African continent may regard the music of Masekela as some of the greatest to stem from the region.