Cultural Percussionist

Hugh Masekela Day

Hugh Ramapolo Masekela (4 April 1939 – 23 January 2018) was a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and singer. He has been described as “the father of South African jazz.” Masekela was known for his jazz compositions and for writing well-known anti-apartheid songs such as “Soweto Blues” and “Bring Him Back Home“. He also had a number 1 US pop hit in 1968 with his version of “Grazing in the Grass“.

Masekela was born in KwaGuqa Township, Witbank, South Africa to Thomas Selena Masekela, who was a health inspector and sculptor and his wife, Pauline Bowers Masekela, a social worker. As a child, he began singing and playing piano and was largely raised by his grandmother, who ran an illegal bar for miners. At the age of 14, after seeing the film Young Man with a Horn (in which Kirk Douglas plays a character modelled on American jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke), Masekela took up playing the trumpet. His first trumpet, from Louis Armstrong, was given to him by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, the anti-apartheid chaplain at St. Peter’s Secondary School now known as St. Martin’s School (Rosettenville)

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