PLAYING AT WORK – MY TIME WITH HUGH MASEKELA
BY BRETT RUBIN
Sometime back in 2012, I recall seeing Josh Georgiou in a Johannesburg coffee shop, looking excited holding a copy of the inaugural issue of the South African edition of Rolling Stone magazine adorned with a fierce-looking Bra Hugh on the cover.
Josh, who was renowned in the local music industry circles and had by that point in time had been working closely with Hugh Masekela for a few years already, greeted me and asked for my thoughts on the cover.
Immediately, and almost somewhat instinctively, I responded ‘the cover looks great, but I think I could take a more honest portrait of him’.
It’s never been in my character to be so opportunistic when it comes to photography, however, this was Hugh Masekela, and I had been hoping to take his portrait for some time, so when the opportunity presented itself I didn’t flinch.
Josh responded, somewhat taken aback, by offering me an opportunity to do a portrait shoot of Hugh the following month, as he was set to embark on a new international tour and could use some new publicity images.
On the day of the shoot, I was so nervous about selecting what music to include on my playlist. I safely opted for jazz standards by the likes of Miles, Coltrane, Monk, Bill Evans, Duke Ellington, et al.
And I could see Hugh found this amusing and made a couple of jokes about it too – like asking me what the name of the song was when ‘Round Midnight’ came on.
I decided to set up a makeshift studio outdoors to work with the soft natural light that Johannesburg in Autumn offers up and produced a beautiful selection of portraits.
Later on that day I photographed Hugh in front of a sculptural mural made by the great South African artist Cecil Skotnes. When Hugh enquired about who the artist was, he remarked: “That makes sense, he used to drive into the townships, during Apartheid, to take lessons from my father”. I came to learn that Hugh’s father Thomas Selema Masekela was a highly accomplished sculptor and that there was an extremely close bond between Hugh and his father, which must have made it all the more difficult for the young 21-year-old Hugh to leave South Africa for exile in New York and the promise of a future.
The response to my initial portraits of Hugh couldn’t have been better. I was told that he really liked the images and that they would be used for the album sleeve of his next release: Playing At Work. The images were sent to Europe and America to promote Hugh’s upcoming performances. And one of my fondest memories of that time was arriving in New York on the day that Hugh Masekela and Larry Willis were performing at the Jazz Standard on East 27th Street. It was also after the album had gone into production and I sat in the smoky jazz club drinking coffee after coffee to stay awake after a long flight. Watching Hugh perform in New York, a city that held so much significance to his career in the 1960s, was an amazing privilege.
After my return to Johannesburg, I found myself getting frequent calls from Josh to stop by at Hugh’s apartment for breakfast and to film a quick promo for an upcoming show. Over time, I found myself taking less photographs of him and getting lost in long conversations that involved a fair amount of laughter. Hugh had a sharp wit and wonderful sense of humor which could keep you on your toes or just as easily pull the rug out from under your feet when you least expected it.
Other memories that stand out from that special time were directing music videos of Hugh’s versions of the Bob Dylan classic ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’, for which we decided to film a tribute to Hugh’s late friend Alf Kumalo, whose iconic and brave photojournalism played a significant role in the struggle against Apartheid.
The other video was for a take on Bob Marley’s Soul Rebel, for which we found an abandoned downtown penthouse office in Johannesburg, featuring a floor to ceiling wooden colonial map of Africa as a backdrop.
Hugh was always so warm and generous when encountering people, refusing a cordial handshake, and always opting for a hug instead – regardless of the person and their social stature.
I found myself alone backstage with Hugh at the Oppikoppi festival in 2014 before he was set to receive a lifetime achievement award, and was highly amused to find myself discussing which suburb in Johannesburg he thought would win an award for having ‘the best personality’. I also remember after the shoot for Hugh’s final album ‘No Borders’ in 2016, we took a stroll through the vibrant Maboneng district. Hugh turned to me and said: “man I feel like I could be walking in Copenhagen or Amsterdam right now, but it makes me happy to be walking through downtown Johannesburg”.
MESH PHOTOGRAPHY SERIES
ARTISTS: DANIEL “KGOMO” MOROLONG | HUGH MASEKELA
GALLERY: CIRCA GALLERY JOHANNESBURG
The Everard Read Circa Gallery in Johannesburg is proud to present Mesh Photography Series, an annual photography programme aimed at acquainting critical photography practice with audiences who are yet to engage with the genre. We aim to achieve this through the assemblage of ideas that are explored independently by artists who employ Photography as a medium of choice; stitched together by the curators, these bodies of work becomes a gateway for us to achieve a fresh and broader understanding of our immediate and global community in a manner that we would otherwise not have access.
Curated by Musa N. Nxumalo and Percy Mabandu
To Engage with the photography of Daniel “Kgomo” Morolong’s and Hugh Masekela’s music is to connect with meaning and memory across time and space.
It is something like a story told about the sculptor, Alberti Giacometti who was once asked about what he wanted to happen to his work when they’d ultimately have to leave the studio. He replied: “bury them in the earth, like that, they may be a bridge between the living and the dead.” We learn this from an essay about Marc Trivier’s photographs of the artist’s work written by John Berger.
To read Morolong’s photographs is to witness pictures as “a bridge between the living and the dead;” himself included. Every act of gazing into the images re-members and connects us with the lives whose flitting moments he froze in these collected frames. Morolong dared to memorialize their vitality, vulnerability; and to rehumanize them at a time when the state legislated to lessen the validity of their claim to life. By daring to gaze at, and see Morolong’s subjects, we enter into a concert of empathy with him and them; sharing a moment of life now passed but not lost.
Photography shares this capacity to bridge time, space and meaning with music, jazz music in particular. During the connection of performance, musician and listener affirm each other across time and space. We are able to reach back to memories through remembered songs; connect and sing along to voices and bodies that are no longer with us – defying death or distance.
By connecting the recently departed Trumpeter Hugh Masekela and Photographer Daniel “Kgomo” Morolong – also a Double Bassist – we converge these shared features of their respective artforms. Masekela’s music was for many years a conduit between exile and home, memory of loved ones and immediate lived realities of those who heard him. His capacity to work across generation expanded on this idea of art as a bridge. To see these two creatives alongside each other may tease out further connections. In this way Morolong’s images may echo the sound of Masekela’s horn – the music may rhyme with pictures; creating a bridge between artforms, lives, and memories across time and space. – Percy Mabandu
The Hugh Masekela Memorial Pavilion Unveiled
“His legacy is complex and has no boundaries. The ripples of his life force are yet creating new facets of his nature. Those will remain unchained, causing ever novel vistas. Only change and the tantalizing promise of a future were his muse.
He was not afraid, and his rage and daring was searing, but his love for family, friends, children, women and Africa is the unifying theme of his opus. Ultimately it is the human species in all its diversity that is his family. Only music is god and this deity is neither fixed nor petrified in genre. He laughed a lot and his humour is scattered everywhere.
And we will always love him”.
This statement, a tribute from the Masekela family, will appear on the Hugh Masekela Memorial Pavilion, set to be unveiled at his gravesite on Saturday, 1st of June, 2019.
The memorial pavilion was designed by world renowned architect Sir David Adjaye. It is based on the architectural tradition from various African countries and affirms the burial
Place as a welcoming space to commune with the departed. Rooted in the Pan African aesthetic, it resonates with Masekela’s own ethos. Adjaye has created a welcoming space, a place for reflection, with light forever filtering through the foliage which is mimicked by the canopy solidly balanced on diversely shaped trunks.
About the Pavilion, Sir David states: “My approach to designing monuments and memorials, what I provocatively termed Making Memory, for my exhibition as the Design Museum in London, is born of a desire to show that architecture like music and art, reflects our collective consciousness. This pavilion or lekgotla designed for Bra Hugh is symbolic of his passion and desire to see us come together to advance African consciousness. To see us leverage our heritage and wisdom as cultural capital to the benefit of our people and communities.”
Mr. Ravi Naidoo of the Design Indaba Trust initiated the process by coordinating Sir David Adjaye’s trips to South Africa. for meetings with the family, Fasian Architectural Labs, who are the local contractors for the Adjaye Associates, and not least Johannesburg City Parks whose cooperation and active assistance afforded the project an early start and an incredibly speedy completion.
Explaining the Design Indaba Trust’s role, Naidoo explains ”Bra Hugh was a dear friend and a huge supporter of the Design Indaba platform. Since his passing, we’ve sought to explore ways to honour him, and celebrate his colossal legacy. Last year, we were able to dedicate the Hugh Masekela gallery, at Zeitz MOCAA, Africa’s first museum of contemporary art. This year, we commissioned Sir David Adjaye, to design a poetic homage to Bra Hugh, in the form of a pavilion. We wanted a space to pause, reflect, meditate and honour Bra Hugh’s spirit, and creative legacy.”
The Akuffo Addo family has walked this journey of love and friendship all the way with the initiative, in the same way that through over 5 decades they have embraced Hugh Ramapolo as their own. This Memorial is a testimony not only of their sincerity but of the possibility of deeper ties among the people of Africa . It is as Hugh would have wanted it, for the coming generations, to come here, pause and say ‘Africa lives, and it matters.”
Ambassador Barbara Masekela comments “It was important to us, as the Masekela family, that the structure reflected Hugh’s essence– he was warm, loving and generous to a fault, and had the gift of connecting effortlessly and joyously with people. The pavilion is a place where those who loved him and his music can connect with him in a profoundly peaceful setting – we are grateful to all who had a hand in realizing this memorial, and deeply thankful to have loved and been loved by this incredible soul.”
The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation, Manhattan School of Music and The ELMA Music Foundation
The Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship
Through this partnership, Manhattan School of Music will provide full scholarships to six South African music students enabling them to pursue Bachelor of Music degrees at MSM, Hugh Masekela’s alma mater.
April 3 2019, Johannesburg – On the occasion of what would have been his 80th birthday, the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) and The ELMA Music Foundation, in partnership with the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation, will, on April 4th, announce the establishment of the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at MSM in honor of the legendary South African musician, activist and life-long advocate, and embodiment, of African identity, heritage and expression.
The scholarship will allow six South African students to pursue Bachelor of Music degrees at Manhattan School of Music, one of the world’s leading music conservatories, and Masekela’s alma mater. The scholarship, which will cover tuition and all living expenses for each of the six scholarship recipients for their full four years of study, will be announced at the Jazz Foundation’s annual gala in New York, which this year will honor Hugh Masekela’s life and legacy. Mr. Masekela, who died on January 23rd, 2018, studied classical trumpet at the MSM from 1960 to 1964.
A principal goal of this new endeavour is to ensure that the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship be awarded to South African students who have faced significant social, educational, cultural, or economic challenges, and who have a demonstrated interest in the advancement of music consistent with Mr. Masekela’s legacy and vision.
“We are enormously grateful for this scholarship grant and deeply honoured to be working with The ELMA Music Foundation and the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation to provide an educational and musical home to six South African students whose presence at the School will stand testament to Hugh Masekela’s vision and talent,” said MSM President James Gandre. “He is one of MSM’s most distinguished alumni, and this is an apt extension of both his musical legacy and the important work that he did during his lifetime on social initiatives benefiting South Africans. The Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholars will be warmly welcomed to a vibrant community of aspiring young musicians who come to the School from 45 countries around the world.”
“We are especially thrilled to honour the legacy and work of this renowned musician and freedom fighter by establishing with Manhattan School of Music and the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation an important new scholarship in his name,” said Tarik Ward, Director, Music Programs, The ELMA Philanthropies. “This scholarship not only honours the great artist’s legacy but also nurtures the next generation of South African musicians and upholds his vision to preserve and promote African heritage, culture, and identity.”
“It is with gratitude and appreciation that we at the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation enter into this partnership with The ELMA Music Foundation and Manhattan School of Music,” said Prof Louis Molamu, Chairperson of the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation. “We look forward to forging ahead into an exciting musical scholarship reflective of Hugh Masekela’s extensive, voracious and prodigious musical appetites and his passion for inter-generational creative collaboration.
“My biggest obsession is to show Africans and the world who the people of Africa really are.” – Hugh Masekela
The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation will work with MSM to promote the scholarship opportunity in South Africa.
To apply, students should visit apply.msmnyc.edu/apply to complete an application. Applications are accepted from September 1st through December 1st.
Issued by Dreamcatcher on behalf of the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation:
Contact: Nomfundo Zondi 081 236 5047 / 011 447 5655 Media3@dreammultimedia.co.za
Marang Setshwaelo – 082 559 1802 / Marang@dreammultimedia.co.za
About the HUGH MASEKELA HERITAGE FOUNDATION
From his birth to his passing Hugh Masekela’s most ardent passion was the restoration, promotion and evolution of African identity, heritage and culture. The Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation is an expression of that passion, that legacy, through the creation of cultural information facilities, the support and incubation of heritage arts, and the dissemination of this information and cultural inheritance throughout the African Diaspora and the world. The Foundation’s specific focus is in the areas of African History and Languages, Genealogy, Inter-generational Communication, Music, Dance, Theatre, Literature, Visual and Culinary Arts.
About HUGH MASEKELA
Born in the small mining town of Witbank, South Africa on April 4, 1939, Hugh Ramapolo Masekela was “bewitched” by music at an early age. Convinced that the musicians were contained in his uncle Putu’s 78rpm gramophone, Hugh took piano lessons at 5, received his first trumpet in 1954, and more famously, a week after his seventeenth birthday, received a trumpet from Louis Armstrong. Apprenticing his way through the South African music scene from the Father Huddleston Jazz Band, to playing as sideman in many of the great bands of the day, becoming bandleader of Alfred Herbert’s famed African Jazz & Variety, copyist (with trombonist Jonas Gwangwa), and trumpeter with the groundbreaking South African jazz opera King Kong; trumpeter, along with revered South African alto saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi and Jonas Gwangwa, on American jazz pianist’s Johnny Mehegan’s South African Gallo sides Jazz In Africa (volumes 1 & 2), and later, with Kippie Moeketsi, Jonas Gwangwa and Abdullah Ibrahim (then Dollar Brand), Johnny Gertze and Makhaya Ntshoko, forming and recording South Africa’s first all-African bebop band The Jazz Epistles – Jazz Epistle: Verse 1.
Championed by Yehudi Menuhin, Johnny Dankworth, Johnny Mehegan, Harry Belafonte, and Miriam Makeba Hugh Masekela began his schooling at MSM in September of 1960. It was at MSM that Hugh would form lifelong musical, and familial, bonds with fellow MSM students Stewart Levine and Larry Willis. Marked by the kaleidoscopic template established during his South African apprenticeship Masekela’s recording and performance career are imbued with a tapestry of diasporic African musical heritage, traditional South African music, Jazz, Brazil, Spanish Latin America, R&B, Motown, Mbaqanga, Rock & Soul, Afrobeat, and musical theatre. Beginning with the West Coast success of the East Coast live recording The Americanization Of Ooga-Booga, Hugh variously performed at the first Watts Jazz Festival, featured on The Byrds “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, featured at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, established, with Stewart Levine, Chisa, a music production house that featured the talents of The Crusaders, Letta Mbulu, Monk Montgomery, Stu Gardner, Peter Fonda and Gram Parsons; recorded the million-seller LP The Promise Of A Future, which featured the chart-topping mbaqanga tune “Grazing In The Grass”.
In 1973 Masekela embarked on an African cultural excursion that included organizing the Zaire ’74 musical festival meant to accompany the Rumble In The Jungle, performing at various African state fund and consciousness-raising events including FESTAC ’77, composing and producing Miriam Makeba, most prominently her 1978 Country Girl LP release, and producing 6 seminal works, in a unique musical idiom that would long be featured in his performance including, ‘Ashiko’, ‘Languta’, ‘In The Marketplace’, ‘Rekpete’, ‘The Boy’s Doin’ It’, and the audience anthem ‘Stimela’. Ever the creator in motion, the late 70’s would find Hugh teaming with Herb Alpert to produce their self-titled Herb Alpert/Hugh Masekela and Main Event Live. December 1980 would find Masekela performing a Christmas concert in Lesotho with Miriam Makeba. Recorded in Botswana in 1984, using a mobile recording studio, Techno-Bush would find Masekela back in the US dance charts with ‘Don’t Go Lose It, Baby’, held out of the top spot by Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’. 1987 found a London-based Hugh Masekela recording Tomorrow which featured the Mandela-inspired anthem ‘Bring Him Back Home’, in the heat of the worldwide Anti-Apartheid movement. 1987 also found Hugh Masekela, along with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Miriam Makeba as featured players on the triumphant global Paul Simon Graceland Tour. Following the first leg of Graceland Tour, Masekela was a seminal contributor to the music of Mbongeni Ngema’s Sarafina! including it’s titular song, inspiration for the character.
In September of 1990 he returned to South Africa, after thirty long years, whereupon he embarked on the countrywide homecoming Sekunjalo tour. As a now local South African artist Hugh Masekela found success with songs like ‘Chileshe’, ‘Thanayi’, and ‘Send Me (Thuma Mina)’ as well as theatre productions like Songs Of Migration. As a working musician Masekela continued to perform at various local festivals, on the African continent, and throughout the global music circuit including the US, the UK, Brazil and Japan. It would be impossible include the breadth of Masekela collaborative partners and recordings credited and uncredited, although some of these would include Stewart Levine, Larry Willis, Randy Crawford, Ivan Lins, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba, Baobab Singers and Dave Grusin. Beloved the world-over from Stockholm to Senegal, Hugh Masekela passed on from this life on January 23, 2018.
About MANHATTAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC
Founded as a community music school by Janet Daniels Schenck in 1918, today MSM is recognized for its more than 960 superbly talented undergraduate and graduate students who come from more than 45 countries and nearly all 50 states; its innovative curricula and world-renowned artist-teacher faculty that includes musicians from the New York Philharmonic, the Met Orchestra, and the top ranks of the jazz and Broadway communities; and a distinguished community of accomplished, award-winning alumni working at the highest levels of the musical, educational, cultural, and professional worlds.
The School is dedicated to the personal, artistic, and intellectual development of aspiring musicians, from its Precollege students through those pursuing doctoral studies. Offering classical, jazz, and musical theatre training, MSM grants a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees. True to MSM’s origins as a music school for children, the Precollege program continues to offer superior music instruction to 475 young musicians between the ages of 5 and 18. The School also serves some 2,000 New York City schoolchildren through its Arts-in-Education Program, and another 2,000 students through its critically acclaimed Distance Learning Program.
About The ELMA MUSIC FOUNDATION
The ELMA Music Foundation invests in organizations that use music to improve youth outcomes in the United States. The ELMA Music Foundation has four principle focus area – Music and Youth Development, In-School Music Programs, Music in Early Childhood Development, and Music and Opportunity Youth.
Grantees include The Mama Foundation for the Arts, a cohort of community-based organizations that form The Music and Youth Development Alliance, the GRAMMY Music Education Coalition, Harlem Children’s Zone, Mind Builders Creative Arts Center, and Creative Solutions.