The day I met Bra Hugh Masekela is engraved in my mind as if it were yesterday. It was deep in the Transkei, the Province of the Eastern Cape, South Africa in an esteemed town called Mthatha for the annual Heritage Festival in 2013.
He gave an astounding performance to an excited crowd, afterwards, I performed as the next act with my live band. We bumped into each other backstage after my performance and conversed casually sharing laughter. In our conversation we discovered that we were both acquainted with the legendary Oliver Mtukudzi and had both been invited to his upcoming celebration, which was due to take place in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Fast-forward two weeks, we were having lunch at a hotel lobby in Harare along with other artists from all over Africa that had been invited by Oliver Mtukudzi. I asked if I could play Bra Hugh a song that I had recently worked on with Oliver Mtukudzi and he said sure. Thirty seconds into listening to the song he looked at me, puzzled and said, “This is really great, but there is nothing playing here.” I will never forget the look on his face. In a bundle of nerves, I had forgotten to press the play button. The song began playing. After he’d listened to the song he remarked, “When am I putting my trumpet on the song? “ and of course the rest is history!
I will remember Bra Hugh for his candid sense of humour and unforgettable style and smile. I’m privileged to have known him as a father, a friend and a collaborator. He lived a full life and I’m truly inspired by his journey to take on each day with great chutzpah.
Heritage restoration was very close to his heart. I remember him saying to me “If we are not careful about preserving our African heritage, one day our great grandchildren will say, they say we used to be Africans. ” In his honour, this a message I will hold true in hope we may never see a day were we Africans abandon our Heritage.
Our last exchange was a text I sent, sending him lots of love and wishing him a speedy recovery. His response was “Hope to see you soon, love Uncle Hugh.”
May his soul rest in peace. Knowing Bra Hugh, I suspect there is a big party going on in heaven. Let’s join in and celebrate the legend that left an indelible mark in music.
love and light