The Assupol family is deeply saddened by the passing of one of the country’s most treasured and beloved faces.
Global icon and music maestro Ramapolo ‘Bra’ Hugh Masekela passed away following his battle with cancer of which he was diagnosed with, in 2008. In 2017 he stopped performing due to his illness. His family announced yesterday that the 78-year-old passed in the early hours of this morning.
Masekela, one of the most familiar names in our country and in the Assupol family, carved his way into the world playing his trumpet, which he picked up when he was just 14 years old. He went on to compose music that spoke of the era which raised him and the eras of which he was a part. Through his artistry, he spoke out against the injustices of the past and captured the essence of black life in South Africa’s townships, and always reflected a global outreach and outlook.
Even his departure from South Africa, when apartheid-era laws were tightened, did not prevent Masekela from pursuing his love of music. While in the United States he established himself as an all-round musician and performer, arranging for his then wife, Miriam Makeba to perform on the New York club circuit.
Finally establishing, with his long-time partner, producer, brother and friend, Stewart Levine, the record label Chisa from which came not only his own tremendous output (The Emancipation Of Hugh Masekela, The Promise Of A Future, Masekela, The Union Of South Africa, I Am Not Afraid, Home Is Where The Music Is, Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz) but also Letta Mbulu’s first album, The Crusaders, and even the likes of Peter Fonda, and of course the much loved million seller “Grazing In The Grass”.
When he returned to Africa, he explored and worked towards growing partnerships with other African artists across the continent, even opening up music schools in countries like Botswana.
“For us here at Assupol we will remember the giant musician for his principles and vision, which he shared when he partnered with us through his annual Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival. He said he wanted his people exposed to the music of his generation, but most importantly to the music of the land,” said Bridget Mokwena-Halala, Assupol CEO.
The Soweto community has always been close to his heart and he wanted to be able to give back to them, and so the Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival was born, with the first festival being held in 2013.
“We will miss his sense of humour, his quiet mannerisms, his need to retreat and focus before going on stage, his love for the stage and the way he embraced the opportunity to perform for his people – he would often extend his set just to keep his audience happy,” said Mokwena-Halala.
Bra Hugh was a force of nature and his music touched people across the globe. It has been an immense privilege for Assupol to be associated with such greatness.
“We, at Assupol, were fortunate enough to call him a friend, above and beyond the successful business relationship we shared. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the Masekela family who has lost a central pillar of their lives, and to the South African nation which has lost an icon,” Mokwena-Halala concluded.
Hugh Masekela once said, “My biggest obsession is to show Africans and the world who the people of Africa really are.” We, as South Africans, owe it to him to continue to spread his message about the beauty, strength and resilience of Africa, its people and cultures.