Hugh Masekela

Words: Chris Booth
Photographs: Brett Rubin

Hugh Masekela.  credit Brett Rubin - Afro Jazz (3)

Anyone that has been to a Hugh Masekela concert will not only know how humble this great musician is, but will also know just how much energy this 70-something year old man has.

Truthfully, I had never heard of Hugh Masekela before this year’s National Arts Festival, but after seeing just how many awards he has won (including The Order of Ikhamanga, Lifetime Achievement Award, and having a day named after him in the US Virgin Islands) and considering how expensive his show’s ticket was, I knew that I would be seeing a fantastic musician. And I was not disappointed. It was fantastic. I never jived so hard while sitting in a seat – the top half of my body was having a jol as my legs tapped in time with the beat.

Hugh Masekela.  credit Brett Rubin - Afro Jazz (4)

But not only did Hugh play so beautifully, he also had a lively stage presence. When the presenter introduced Hugh Masekela, it sounded like he might come on with a very serious attitude, play some music and then disappear off the stage. But this was not the case… Hugh spoke to the crowd as though they were the best audience ever. He got the whole crowd singing after him, he got them up on their feet, and he danced along to all of the songs he was singing. He even told some great anecdotes, true stories, and facts about his songs… Soon he was dancing away, lifting his shirt and sticking out his bum as he sang about African women.

But that’s not to say that Hugh Masekela wasn’t respectable. He still kept an excellent demeanor, especially when he was explaining the life stories of each of his band members (including himself and the guitarist that he seemed to regard as a child of his own). One moment that made me respect Hugh even more was when he motioned for a crowd member to put away their phone, encouraging them to enjoy the moment and not ruin a once in a lifetime opportunity.

And once in a lifetime opportunity it was. By the end of the show, I was standing up, clapping my hands and moving my body – even though I was sitting in row X. Of course he came back for an encore song or too, and even when his show ended, all of the audience member were still chatting loudly in the foyer of The Monument. Truly, only an amazing man can do that to a crowd.

Hugh Masekela.  credit Brett Rubin - Afro Jazz (5)