Hugh Masekela was a great musician. He wrote and performed wonderful and inspiring music. He entertained millions. He was also respected and liked by millions for his music and his humanity. Hugh Masekela typified the best of South Africans. He refused to be classed as inferior to white South Africans. He rejected that the apartheid regime tried to deny him and a majority of South Africans citizenship of their own country. He fought against apartheid through his music, through his rejection of racism and through his support for a democratic non-racist and non-sexist South Africa. His music gave pleasure not only to millions of South Africans but millions more around the world. He also gave a voice to those denied it, to the black southern Africans migrating to work in the mines of South Africa, to those living in Soweto and through his work and example showed a different, better, inclusive and more equal South Africa is not desirable but achievable.
Hugh Masekela was given his first trumpet by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston who later became the President of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and ACTSA’s founding patron. Hugh never forgot this and one of the last times I saw him perform was in London at St James Piccadilly where Archbishop Trevor once lived and in a benefit for the Trevor Huddleston Foundation. Hugh gave a virtuoso performance. I was glad I was there on the evening and now looking back I am even gladder I went. It was a wonderful concert. I also saw him perform that year in Glasgow to mark International Mandela Day which was fitting as Glasgow was the first city in the world to award Nelson Mandela Freedom of the City.
The news of Hugh’s death is a sad one but we give thanks for the gift of Hugh Masekela. He was a great musician, performer and great man. He has enriched the lives of millions. He will be missed, most of all by his family but also by many others but he will not be forgotten, his life, values and his music will continue to be celebrated.