Hugh, citizen of the world: A son remembers his dad

It is with heavy heart that I confirm that my father, Hugh Ramapolo Masekela, has hung up his horn after a long battle with prostate cancer. It is difficult to comprehend that this moment is real.

To me, my father has always been both ageless and immortal. Of the countless shows I had the honour of watching my dad perform, each felt like the first, each felt brand new.

At the age of five he first introduced me to the late night halls of Manhattan’s The Village Gate and Mikell’s, where he would steal the hearts and souls of innocents with a musical story telling all his own — passionately and relentlessly transporting them to the farthest reaches of Africa with both voice and trumpet.

It was these moments, and his choosing to take me around the globe at any chance he got, that would come to shape my entire worldview.

As a product of the meticulously designed apartheid regime of 20th century South Africa, my father’s life was the definition of activism and resistance.


Despite the open arms of many countries, for 30 years he refused to take citizenship anywhere else on this earth. His belief was too strong that the pure evil of systematic racist oppression could and would be crushed. Instead he would continue to fight.

He was right.

To know Hugh Masekela was indeed to know that no matter class, creed, colour, religion or any other made-up distinctions, he stood with empathy and compassion, locked arm in arm with the distressed, displaced and downtrodden everywhere and anywhere on this planet.

He carried a deep belief in justice, freedom and equality for all people to the very end. He scoffed at the futile idea of borders defining humanity.

But it was his undying and childlike love for South Africa and the entire African continent — with its dizzying displays of natural beauty, music, art and culture —that mesmerised me more than anything.

He was beautifully obsessed with showcasing the endless magic and pageantry of African people to a Western-obsessed world.

After a recent trip to Tanzania caused me to share with my dad that my heart was full, he simply said this to me: “I can give you my heart to take in the overspill.”

Selema Masekela is Hugh Masekela’s firstborn child, an entertainer, musician and international sports broadcaster based in Los Angeles

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

The Portfolio: Naftali

Naftali has just released his debut single, ‘Kea Shwa’. He tells us a bit about his music-making journey.

Review: Thandi Ntuli’s double consciousness on ‘Live at Jazzwerkstatt’

Thandi Ntuli’s new album, ‘Live at Jazzwerkstatt’, is a radiant turn, with dark a darker meta-narrative

A place called home: Jazz and the new normal at the National Arts Festival

Several jazz offerings at the virtual festival focus on journeys and identity

Of drumming, Tony Allen, Charles Mungoshi and my cousin

Drummers have the power to allow Zimbabweans to commune with their ancestors, and none more so than those with elevated talent on the skins.

Billy Monama: stringing together South African guitar history

The guitarist’s book, Introduction to South African Guitar Style: Volume One is due to be published at the end of the year

Celebrating International Jazz Day at home

Here's a look back at how the annual International Jazz Day, now in its 9th year, has been celebrated across the world.
Advertising

Ingonyama Trust Board moves to retrench staff

More than 50 workers at the Ingonyama Trust Board have been issued section 189 notices

Tito needs the IMF, South Africa doesn’t

The IMF loan is given with false motivation — to provide political cover for entrenched neoliberalism and deep cuts in the public service

No proof of Covid-19 reinfection, yet

Some people report testing positive for Covid-19 after initially having the disease and then testing negative. Scientists are still trying to understand if this means that reinfection is possible
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday