There’s been an outpouring of tributes to the late Hugh Masekela, who was lain to rest today. Most of the obituaries have (rightly) focused on his jazz career, his political profile and a life that was almost cinematic in scope.
Underreported in these parts was the direct influence Hugh Masekela (known endearingly as “Bra Hugh”) had on South Africa’s House Music explosion. Ralf Gum featured Hugh Masekela on tracks including “In The City” and “With Her Hand,” the latter which received the tribute of an ultra-rare remix from Moodymann.
But he also had a role as a mentor and elder statesman, with a unique appreciation for new sounds. Channel24 in South Africa shares some anecdotes from Oscar “Oskido” Mdlongwa on Masekela’s role encouraging South African artists:
“Bra Hugh came through,” Oskido from BOP tells #Trending. “He was always there for the younger guys, always … Most of these jazz musicians were not recognising kwaito, but he said, no this is it.”
“We sent the record to Louie [Vega from MAW] to listen to. One afternoon I get to my house and there’s an email from them saying we want to sign this record, not the single, the whole album … I’m calling Bruce … no one could believe it. Louie Vega remixes the record. Boom. It became big all over…”
Oskido adds: “It was the same with Black Coffee. He was with us at Kalawa [Jazmee Records] in the early years. He wanted to remix Stimela so I arranged a meeting with him and Bra Hugh. They went in, talking music and business, and Black Coffee got his blessing at once.” History tells the rest.
This exchange between South Africa’s artists and likeminded international figures of course followed a path blazed by Hugh Masekela himself back in the 1950s.