South African musical giant, Hugh Ramopolo Masekela, has passed away at the age of 78. Larger than life, news of Masekela’s death has flooded the airways around the world, with local DJs struggling to keep the emotion out of their voices as they report on the death of one of our country’s most beloved musicians.
Masekela, who over the course of his nearly sixty year career played with the likes of Paul Simon, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Harry Belafonte, spent thirty years in exile, having left South Africa shortly after the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre. Locally Masekela collaborated with artists such as Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), Jonas Gwangwa and Miriam Makeba, who he went on to marry, having performed together in the internationally acclaimed musical, King Kong.
Hugh Masekela returned to South Africa in 1990, and continued using his status as an internationally renowned musician to draw attention to the many problems facing the continent, but he was also a man full of life, with a wicked sense of humour. In one of his last radio interviews Masekela talked of how people kept wanting to visit him to pray for his recovery. He told them to rather stay home and pray for him, saying that the ‘signal’ wasn’t very strong at his house, and that the message might not get through!
Our condolences go out to the friends and family of Hugh Masekela – and indeed all of South Africa, for today we have lost a small part of ourselves with the passing of the spectacularly talented and charismatic Hugh Ramopolo Masekela.
Click here to listen to the song Bring Him Back Home, which went on to become the anthem for Nelson Mandela’s world tour following his release from prison in 1992. In April 1985, Mandela managed to smuggle a letter out of Pollsmoor Prison to Masekela, wishing him luck on his recording projects. Masekela was so moved by the letter that he composed the song, Bring Him Back Home, which envisioned Mandela walking freely down the streets of South Africa.