Hugh-Fest has been introduced as the new name for the well-known Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival, which has undergone two years of reinvention as a virtual event. The event is scheduled for 4 December 2022 at Nirox Sculpture Park in the Cradle of Humankind. The festival lineup, now known as Hugh-Fest, nevertheless adheres to the fundamental principles of Bra Hugh: a great affinity for African tradition, the creative voice of the African streets and the African soul, and a diverse African syntax that defies the confines of genre and style.Mandisi Dyantyis’ down-home spiritual tones are featured on this year’s music lineup, along with performances by Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse and Gugu Shezi from a township collaboration, Thandi Ntuli and Bra Themba Mokoena from a cross-generational collaboration, and the candy-striped duo of Leomile from Lesotho and Muneyi from Venda.
The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation
The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation has carried on his largest legacy of passion in the four years since his passing. “To show Africans and the world who the people of Africa really are” coming out of the acclaimed “Home Is Where The Music Is” exhibition.
Hugh Masekela, who passed away in 2018, established the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation 2015 Y. Through the development of information facilities, the encouragement, and incubation of heritage arts, and the dissemination of this knowledge and cultural heritage throughout the African diaspora and the rest of the world, the Foundation seeks to promote, preserve, and protecting African heritage while also helping to restore African identity.
The Hugh-Fest is proud to present its core values of the growth and promotion of African heritage and culture, as well as our ever-evolving diversity, to and through a cross-generational, cross-cultural audience, with the dedicated support of Assupol. The foundation is a reflection of his ongoing commitment to preserving and promoting African heritage, tradition, and identity.
Bra Hugh’s legacy and vision of a cross-generational, cross-cultural discourse about ever-evolving African heritage, culture, and innovation with its basic values of empowerment, agency, and well-being are vibrant with the line-up of music, dance, and spoken word at The Hugh-Fest 2022.
“Assupol has been a proud sponsor of the Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival for eight years. We celebrate the legacy of Bra Hugh, and we honour the diverse heritage that shapes our identity as Africans. Our involvement in HughFest ensures this heritage remains accessible for generations to come,” says Velmah Nzembela, Head of Group Corporate Affairs, Assupol.
“As always, the festival will showcase Bra Hugh’s eclectic and broad vision of culture, music, and heritage,” says co-organizer Pula Twala, Bra Hugh’s daughter. Bra Hugh’s nephew and festival co-organiser Mabusha Masekela also commented: “For the past years, we have faced a global pandemic that kept us locked indoors. And now, with Assupol’s unwavering support, we can burst into nature once again, with the sun and trees, wind and flowers, as we dance with our children.”
Semopa, The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation, and Assupol will organize and present Hugh-Fest, an outdoor festival of music, dance, spoken word, exhibitions, food, and drink in a family-friendly environment of healing, gratitude, and celebration, drawing inspiration from his audience favorite “In The Marketplace.”
Bra Hugh’s career
As a youngster, Masekela began singing and playing the piano. He became intensely passionate about trumpet playing at the age of 14 after seeing the American jazz-themed film Young Man with a Horn. Masekela received a trumpet as a present and was urged to practice so that he might realize his potential and become a musician after being recognized by an anti-apartheid activist and priest named Trevor Huddleston. Additionally, Huddleston asked Uncle Sauda, the conductor of the Johannesburg “Native” Brass Band, to instruct Masekela in the fundamentals of trumpet technique.
Masekela then rapidly learned the trumpet and encouraged his friends to pick up instruments; together, they finally created the Huddleston Jazz Band, the first youth orchestra in South Africa. By 1956, Masekela had joined the African Jazz Revue, an African Jazz and Variety Show at South Africa’s Johannesburg Windmill Theatre that was put on by a British businessman named Alfred Herbert with the intention of showcasing the top artists in the area.A few years later, Miriam Makeba, who would later become Masekela’s first wife in 1964, was a member of The Manhattan Brothers, the biggest South African singing group at the time.
Masekela formed South Africa’s first bebop band, Jazz Epistles, not long after gaining some notoriety in his hometown from touring with the Manhattan Brothers and appearing in the popular King Kong musical, along with other well-known musicians like Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Band), Kippie Moeketsi, Makaya Ntshoko, and Johnny Gertze. Through 1959, the group experienced moderate success as a result of drawing record-breaking crowds to performances in Sophiatown, a district of Cape Town and Johannesburg that at the time was the heart of politics, jazz, and blues.
However, because of South Africa’s growing unfriendly environment, the Jazz Epistles’ triumph was short-lived. Despite the band’s fame, it became increasingly difficult for artists like Masekela and his group to support themselves at the end of 1959 as jobs dried up nationwide as a result of people’s unease over government policies.
Hugh Masekela started his international journey while studying at the Guildhall School of Music in England. But this period of his life was brief since he wanted to leave England because he was getting restless there. Later, when discussing this time in his life, “I felt that I needed to have access to the kind of teachers that people like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Miles, and all those people had. I was really determined that New York would be my destination.” he said. He got accepted to the Manhattan School of Music in New York a few months after attending the Guildhall School of Music, thanks to his friends Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba.
Masekela organized and performed in the March for Freedom in Namibia and South Africa! anti-apartheid movement demonstration in England in 1986, which attracted more than 250,000 people. Masekela participated in Paul Simon’s Graceland tour of Africa in 1987, which featured up-and-coming African musicians and was intended to help them achieve exposure. However, this trip drew criticism because it was perceived as a breach of the cultural boycott against South Africa. Masekela co-wrote and composed the musical Sarafina! with South African director Mbongeni Ngema because he wanted to be a part of a show that made a political statement and used South African music.
The song Sarafina! presented the tale of the students involved in the Soweto Riots against apartheid and centered on Masekela’s own country. The struggles and sorrows of his countrymen were to be portrayed in this tale. On January 28, 1988, Sarafina! made its Broadway debut. It quickly became a classic and was later adapted into a Whoopi Goldberg-starring motion picture. Following Nelson Mandela’s release from jail in 1990, Masekela, at last made his way home. Despite returning home, he continued to make music and take part in tours. As he participates in worldwide tours and performs in concerts to this day, his fame is rising. He has earned a reputation as one of the most significant musicians of his time as an activist who used music, concerts, and events to fight against apartheid while living in exile. He passed away on 23 January 2018 after a battle with prostate cancer.
Among his many honors are honorary doctorates from the Vaal University of Technology (2014), the University of York (2014), the University of KwaZulu-Natal (2017), and Rhodes University (2015). (2011). He received the Order of Ikhamanga at the 2010 South African National Orders Ceremony, the African Music Legend Award at the 2007 Ghana Music Awards, the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 World Music Expo in Copenhagen, and the Channel O Music Video Awards (2005). He won the International Award of the Year at the 2002 BBC Radio Jazz Awards. The 1988 Tony Award for Best Score (Musical) for Sarafina was nominated by Masekela and Mbongeni Ngema, his music and lyrics collaborators. He had seven nominations and two Grammy awards. He continued to produce nearly 50 albums, and his 1968 single “Grazin’ in the Grass” was a million-dollar hit. His moving anthems Bring Back Nelson Mandela, Stimela, and Soweto Blues amply illustrated his musical objective to increase public awareness of the horrors of apartheid.
His citation for his honorary doctorate concluded: “Hugh Masekela’s career is testimony to the capacity of music to animate the social and the political imagination, alongside its aesthetic potency. The resilience with which he has pursued this in a career spanning an extraordinary seven decades merits academic recognition and a standing ovation and it is therefore befitting that the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg awards an honorary doctorate degree to Hugh Ramopolo Masekela.”
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