Jazz legend Hugh Masekela dies aged 78

  • Bang Showbiz
  • 23 January 2018
Hugh Masekela

Hugh Masekela

Hugh Masekela has passed away at the age of 78 after a long battle with prostrate cancer

Hugh Masekela has died aged 78.

The Jazz legend and anti-apartheid activist sadly passed away in Johannesburg, South Africa after a long and "courageous" battle with prostrate cancer, his family has confirmed in a statement.

They said: "After a protracted and courageous battle with prostate cancer, he passed peacefully in Johannesburg, South Africa."

His relatives said his passing is he a huge loss, and that they were "blessed" and "grateful" to have been a part of his life.

The statement added: "A loving father, brother, grandfather and friend, our hearts beat with profound loss.

"Hugh's global and activist contribution to and participating in the areas of music, theatre, and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memory of millions across six continents.

"We are blessed and grateful to be part of a life and ever-expanding legacy of love.

"Rest in power beloved, you are forever in our hearts."

Masekela was first diagnosed with the cancer in 2008, and in 2016 he had to have eye surgery after the disease had spread.

The multi-instrumentalist was a master trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and singer.

At home he was often referred to as the "father of South African jazz".

Masekela dedicated much of his time to protesting racial segregation and discrimination that existed in South Africa during the the 1950s and 1960s, as part of the anti-apartheid movement, and even spent three decades in exile.

He penned the song 'Soweto Blues' about the uprising that occurred in 1976, following the decision by the apartheid government of South Africa to make Afrikaans a medium of instruction at school. The uprising was forcefully put down by the police, leading to the death of between hundreds of people.

The track was released in 1977 as part of Masekela's album 'You Told Your Mama Not to Worry'.

The music legend had a number one hit in the US with 1968's 'Grazing in the Grass' in the Billboard 100 chart.

His career saw him win countless awards, most recently a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Jazz FM Awards in 2015.

Masekela was a fluent trumpet player from the age of 14, and became interested in the brass instrument after watching Kirk Douglas portray jazz cornertist Bix Beiderbecke in the 1950 movie 'Young Man with a Horn'.

The 'Up Up & Away' hitmaker received two Grammys during his career, and released over 30 records, his most recent 2016's 'No Borders'.

Following his passing, South African President Jacob Zuma said Masekela's memory and his service and dedication to the country will "never be forgotten".

He said: "It is an immeasurable loss to the music industry and to the country at large. His contribution to the struggle for liberation will never be forgotten."

Masekela is survived by his two children Sal Masekela and Pula Twala.

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