On 3rd January 2018, one of the world’s finest and most inspirational horn players died. After a career of changing music, and not just in his homeland of South Africa, Hugh Masekela was sadly taken from the world of jazz. Having been a figure of defiance throughout apartheid, and a voice of reason afterwards, Masekela was one of South Africa’s greatest heroes and truly deserving of a headline show dedicated to him at this festival that owes him so much.
The show at Southbank Centre will feature Masekela’s full band as well as Sibongile Khumalo, a South African singer who worked with Masekela in the past, and Zimbabwean singer Oliver Mtukudzi. You can expect a selection of world-class artists, displaying an array of talents, being unified on the stage by one thing: a love of Bra Hugh, his impact and his music.
Backed by Complete, a Masekela supported South African vocal ensemble, there will be layers of sound that reflect the eras and changes in Masekela’s life. His music was both revolutionary and mainstream, fusing together the worlds of protest and pop. He had hit singles and made some far-out jazz. To get the flavour of the evening I recommend listening to Promise of a Future from 1968; you won’t hear many horns blown as well as on these songs.
For the jazz festival, this is also a personal moment. Masekela, in the past, was always an enthusiastic supporter of the London Jazz Festival, having opened it in 2015 and been a big part of Serious, the charity who run the festival, since its very beginning. Masekela’s impact on international jazz was more than just playing a few shows and helping to curate some evenings. The influence and inspiration to young musicians all over the African continent is one of the reasons we can celebrate so many global artists today.
Whether it be recording the first African LP with the Jazz Epistles, protesting in exile or leading the spread of African music across the world, Hugh Maseleka was and is a legend that transcends music. This is an opportunity to join others in a celebration of one of the greatest musicians to ever grace the stage at the EFG London Jazz Festival.