Hugh Masekela may no longer be with us, but his legacy will live on through his music which is as timeless as they come.
Here was an artiste that was versatile as his competence with the flugelhorn and Cornet clearly shows and he wasn’t bound by any conventions fusing genres such as hip-hop, afrobeat, disco, afropop, house and kwaito into the smooth jazz that he played.
Hugh Masekela wasn’t shy to voice his opinion and was a very vocal critic of apartheid in South Africa and his incredible consistency meant he stayed at the very top till his dying day.
He died on the 23rd of January 2018 and his last album, No Borders, was released in 2016 and was perhaps his Magnus Opus. Featuring a myriad of styles and featuring artistes such as Tresor, Kabomo, Dice Makgothi, J’Something (MiCasa), it was a perfect swansong for a perfect musician.
Below are the 20 essential tracks that define Hugh Masekela, no music library is complete without it.
“Grazing in the Grass”
His trumpet steals the show on this track and it is this that makes the song so timeless
“Stimela (Coal Train)”
This was an emotional rollercoaster as it told the harrowing story of mineworkers who worked the mines for the profit of an apartheid government. They had to leave their families and everyone they loved.
Hugh Masekela was not one to talk about Apartheid and just leave it at that, even after the oppressive Apartheid government was overthrown, Bra Hugh still addressed social like on Thuma Mina
Mafikizolo feat. Hugh Masekela “Kwela Kwela”
“Kwela Kwela” tells a most excellent story. The use of Afrikaans on the song just added to the authenticity as it captured the days of apartheid and the suffering of the people of the period
This song is like a call to arms, while it calls out untoward behaviour, it also compels people who are suffering injustice to stand for their rights .
Performed by Miriam Makeba and written by Masekela, this is powerful song that chronicles the uprising in Soweto in 1976
“Goin’ Back to New Orleans”
The great Masekela didn’t sing much, but when he did, it was powerful as was the case in ‘Goin back to New Orleans’. He also plays the trumpet here too much to our delight.
“Ziph’ Inkomo,” which was originally a song by Caiphus Semenya. Masekela sampled it with no vocals in sight. Somehow it still managed to carry the message about the practise of ‘Lobola’, the practise of paying a bride price in Southern Africa.
Police brutality has been a hot topic in many communities and South Africa was no different. “Khawuleza,” was an anthem against the police and their unruly behavior especially towards women who sold liquor in the ghetto areas
“Thanayi” feat. Thandiswa Mazwai
If you feel Masekela couldn’t deal with social issue, then perhaps you need to listen to “Thanayi”. It’s a song about body positivity,
You know there’s no essential song list by a prominent artiste without on eulogizing the woman who gave them life. So, here’s the customary Mama song, but this one brings on the waterworks.
“Vasco Da Gama”
Vasco Da Gama was a Portuguese explorer who was credited with discovering Cape Town. Now as we know, most of the men revered as being the ‘discoverers’ of new land, often turned out to be douches, so naturally Bra Hugh threw some shade his way.
“African Secret Society”
Female circumcision was the topic of discussion here and there was no holding back on the criticism of the archaic and horrendous act in this song.
“Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela)”
Bring Him Back home was a call to the oppressive Apartheid government to release Nelson Mandela, while the song is upbeat, the message is grim.
“Don’t Go Lose It Baby”
As mentioned earlier, Hugh Masekela was versatile and on this track, he decided to do some rapping– No surprise, it turned out pretty decent
A soundtrack to the highly acclaimed 1992 movie. “Sarafina” is a rhythmic song that’s catchy and easy to sing to.
“Mbombela” feat. Sibongile Khumalo
Sibongile Khumalo handled the vocals on this track and with a full horn section involved, this was a technical and layered song that is just a must listen.
“Market Place” is Masekela at his storytelling best as he uses a story to focus on some of the ills in society at the time. It’s a supremely well written song and one that has to be played on repeat.
“Tapera” feat. Oliver Mtukudzi
You know how excited we all got when Beyoncé and Shakira decided to get on the same song? That’s how this felt with Mtukudzi on the guitar and Masekela handling the trumpet. “Tapera” is a modern great and one that would outlive even the best of us.
Masekela’s horn gives this song life and with the fusion of uptown and township influences we have an amazing song.
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