After a long battle with prostate cancer, South African jazz artist and musical legend Hugh Masekela has died at age 78.
His family released a statement announcing his death.
“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 six continents. We are blessed and grateful to be part of a life and ever-expanding legacy of love. Rest in power, beloved. You are forever in our hearts.”
Through his five-decade career, Masekela released 40 solo albums and collaborated with Harry Belafonte, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Paul Simon. Born in Witbank, South Africa in 1939, Masekela was given his first trumpet at age 14 by anti-apartheid activist Father Trevor Huddleston. By the 1950s, Bra Hugh, as he was affectionately known as, was playing in Alfred Herbert’s African Jazz Revue. At age 21, Masekela left his home country for England after coming under pressure for his anti-apartheid activities.
With the help of his girlfriend, Masekela came to the United States with a scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music. It was there where he began working for Harry Belafonte. He released his first album Trumpet Africaine in 1962.
In 1986, he recorded the anti-apartheid anthem ‘Bring Home Nelson Mandela’ and returned home to South Africa after Mandela’s release. After a long struggle with alcohol and drugs, Masekela checked himself into rehab in 1997. He received an honorary doctorate in music from Wits University last year.
Reactions to his death reverberated through social media.
Rest in peace Bra Hugh Masekela.