By Nita Karume,
January 24, 2018,
South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela has passed on at 78 after a long battle with prostate cancer. In a statement released by his family, Mr. Masekela died peacefully in Johannesburg, South Africa, surrounded by his family.
His fans and leaders expressed their condolences to the family following the news. The jazz maestro was diagnosed with prostate cancer ten years ago. He is said to have undergone multiple operations over the course of diagnosis.
Last October, Mr. Masekela canceled a scheduled performance at the Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival in Rockville. He said he wanted to focus fully on battling the disease.
Popularly known as Bra Hugh, the multi-award winning singer and composer began playing the trumpet at the tender age of 14. Mr. Masekela quickly rose to fame with a unique Afro-Jazz sound and hits such as Soweto Blues which became an anti-apartheid anthem in 1976.
Masekela’s musical work was largely inspired by the turmoil that South Africa went through during apartheid. His music, he said, was used as a weapon to spread political change. In 2004, Masekela published his autobiography, Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela (co-authored with D. Michael Cheers), which received both local and international recognition.
Mr. Masekela received several awards throughout his life. Among these the Order of Ikhamanga – South African National Orders Ceremony (2010); an honorary Doctorate in Music from the University of York (2014); a Doctor of Music (honoris causa) from Rhodes University (2015); as well as the African Music Legend Award – Ghana Music Awards (2007).