South African Jazz Star Hugh Masekela Dies at 78

Hugh Masekela
Hugh Masekela playing jazz

South African jazz legend and anti-apartheid activist Hugh Masekela has died the age of 78 as the sad news has triggered an outpouring of tributes to his music, his long career and his fight against white majority rule in his home nation.

“It is an immeasurable loss to the music industry and to the country at large. His contribution to the struggle for liberation will never be forgotten,” Jaccob Zuma confirmed in a sad statement.

“After a protracted and courageous battle with prostate cancer, he passed peacefully in Johannesburg, South Africa,” his family Confirmed also.

Hugh Masekela
Hugh Masekela

In a career spanning more than five decades, Masekela, often called “Bra Hugh” gained international recognition with his distinctive Afro-Jazz sound and hits such as “Soweto Blues“, which served as one of the sound-tracks to the anti-apartheid movement.

Masekela learned to play the trumpet at age 14 and gained fame for his bright, lively playing. He went into exile after the 1960 Sharpeville killings in which 69 protesters were shot dead.

His song 'Soweto Blues', served as one of the soundtracks to the anti-apartheid movement
His song ‘Soweto Blues’, served as one of the soundtracks to the anti-apartheid movement

In 1968 he scored an international hit with “Grazing in the Grass.”

As well as close friendships with jazz legends like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Mingus, Masekela also performed alongside stars Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s.

The Queen shakes hands with Hugh Masekela during Nelson Mandela's state visit to Britain in 1996
The Queen shakes hands with Hugh Masekela during Nelson Mandela’s state visit to Britain in 1996

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