As a boy growing up in the impoverished townships of South Africa, he was inspired to learn the trumpet after seeing Kirk Douglas play Bix Beiderbecke in Young Man With A Horn. He begged one of his teachers – the anti-apartheid crusader Father Trevor Huddleston – to buy him a horn and in return he promised to stay out of trouble.
Hugh soon made a name for himself in South Africa but as the racial tensions intensified during the 50s he decided he had to leave his homeland to get a better music education in America. There he quickly made a name for himself with his fusion of African jazz music and became a ‘flower child’ playing with some of the great bands of the decade: Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and the Byrds. He’s still probably best known for his number-one track, Grazing in the Grass, which sold four million copies worldwide in 1968. He returned to Africa in 1973, spending the next 17 years working on a range of musical collaborations in Botswana, Liberia, Nigeria, Congo and Guinea. Then, after thirty years in self-imposed exile, he returned to his homeland in 1990.
Listen again here.
Hugh Masekela’s album ‘The Chisa Years’ is available here.