On what would have been Hugh Masekela’s 80th birthday, the good folks at Google have decided to commemorate the occasion by immortalising the influential South African jazz artist with a “doodle”:
Who is Hugh Masekela?
An animation of Bra Hugh will appear above the search bar of all Google users for the entirety of Thursday, exposing the legendary musician to a completely new audience. Masekela sadly passed away in January 2018, as Mzansi united in its outpouring of grief.
Quite frankly, he was one of the most successful and well-loved South Africans who made it big overseas. After releasing a mammoth 40 albums in his career, he gained international acclaim and became a powerful voice in the battle against apartheid. Here’s what else you need to know about our homegrown hero:
Everything you need to know about Hugh Masekela:
His first trumpet came from Louis Armstrong
His father, Trevor Huddlestone, was a well-known anti-apartheid activist. While campaigning abroad, he crossed paths with the iconic trumpeter Louis Armstrong who gave him one of his own instruments. Masekela soon put it to good use, as he went on to form his Jazz Epistles band.
Schooled by the best
Not only did he enrol at the Manhattan School of Music, but Hugh Masekela was in New York during the golden age of jazz. He would soon link-up with Louis Armstrong again, and was taken under the wings of both Miles Davies and John Coltrane. That is some company, hey?
He lead the battle against apartheid from abroad
Masekela used his influential voice to demand the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. His music was being delivered to a worldwide audience, and his lyrics came to reflect the tyranny that was being faced by black South Africans in the 21st century.
His award-winning Bring Back Nelson Mandela from 1987 proved to be wildly popular, and became the anthem of choice upon Madiba’s eventual long walk to freedom from Pollsmore Prison.
Success in America
Numerous degrees and awards
I mean, where exactly do we start? He’s been conferred with hundreds of musical awards over the years, including recognition from MTV and the South African Music Awards (SAMA). The list includes:
- Order of Ikhamanga – an award from the president and the highest musical honour
an SAartist can receive.
- MTV Africa Music Legend Award.
- Grammy Award for Best Single.
- South African Music Award for Best Adult Contemporary Album.
- Honorary Doctorates from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of York.
- Womex Lifetime Achievement Award.
The country that celebrates “Hugh Masekela Day”
The US Virgin Islands proclaimed ‘Hugh Masekela Day’ in 2011, not long after Hugh joined U2 on stage during the Johannesburg leg of their 360 World Tour. Then-Governer of the territories, John de Jongh, declared that 18 March would be the day that the islanders celebrated his musical and humanitarian work across the globe.