Only a month into this new year and already we’ve had sad and terrible losses in the Music World. The latest is Hugh Masekela, and artist whose innovative style and uncompromising message made him a household name in the Pop as well as Jazz world.
An artist whose activism against the oppressive society of South African apartheid forced him out of his country, but in doing so, gave him to the world where he spread his gift of music. Through the sound of Hugh Masekela we were turned on to the music of South Africa; realizing there was an entire world we hadn’t heard, or heard very little about. He first came to prominence via the Monterrey Pop Festival in 1967 and through his solo Horn contribution to the Byrds single, So You Want To Be A Rock n’ Roll Star. From there, he recorded the worldwide crossover hit Grazin’ In The Grass, which established him as a major new voice and dubbed The Father Of South African Jazz by his contemporaries.
From 1954, Masekela played music that closely reflected his life experience. The agony, conflict, and exploitation South Africa faced during the 1950s and 1960s inspired and influenced him to make music and also spread political change. He was an artist who in his music vividly portrayed the struggles and sorrows, as well as the joys and passions of his country. His music protested about apartheid, slavery, government; the hardships individuals were living. Masekela reached a large population that also felt oppressed due to the country’s situation.
This concert, which has long been considered lost, and being heard here for the firs time, is from August 14, 1968. It was part of a Fall Fashion Collection program for the Broadway Department Stores in Southern California, where Masekela was the musical portion of the program.
Unfortunately, the tape runs out at around 32 minutes, towards the closing bars of A Whiter Shade Of Pale, but resumes close to the beginning of Grazin’ In The Grass (the tape was flipped over). Aside from that, it is an undiscovered record of a memorable performance by one of the true originals. Someone who, by his message and his voice, shed light on vicious oppression while filling the air with the love and beauty of his notes. Perhaps the true intent of music; to educate and motivate.
A brilliant musician and stellar human being – they don’t make better combinations than that.
We were blessed by your gift.