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Hugh Masekela was more than a legend- Big Ben

by Kelvin Chiringa

One of Namibia’s pioneering voices of Jazz, Big Ben has said the now departed legendary jazz sensation, Hugh Masekela was more than a legend and his signature sound will live on forever.

Masekela, one of South Africa’s epic saxophonist succumbed to cancer this week with his death casting a dark veil of grief right across the musical world.

Speaking to Vibe this week, Big Ben said, “I know many people would like to say that world music has lost something but I think it’s not always true because in this case, Hugh Masekela has contributed so much to the music that his contribution is not going to end with him."

Big Ben said, despite the silenced voice of the raconteur, years from now his sound will make its way into learning institutions and inspire generations to come.

“It will become part of our heritage as Africans, as it is already, so I wouldn’t say we have lost. This person has spent a lot of time on earth. He has done his job. He has contributed to human society especially in our culture. So we have lost a person yes, but he has done everything. These are some of the musicians that we glorify today. He is not just a legend, he is actually a hero for African culture and African music,” he said.

The prolific Jazz artist said he has learnt consistency when it comes to lyrical content from Masekela.

“You always knew a Masekela song to mean something. I have leant to be story-telling and activism. You knew a Masekela song to tackle the politics of the day. You knew his music to reflect genuinely the feelings and concerns of his society, of his community. That is the one thing I picked up from him and I have over the years tried to emulate that. I think it works for me as well now. Again, he has already contributed to my music as a youngster,” said the artist. 

Echoing Big Ben, sensational songstress, Liz Ehlers also says it is now the responsibility of this generation to keep his legacy alive.

“It’s definitely a huge loss to the music industry and to the world itself, and we now take this moment to honour him by celebrating his music with a refreshed respect and refreshed honour because of his legacy,” she said.

She says musicians can take after Masekela’s consistency and unique fashion.

“With those two factors, we can look at Hugh Masekela and say this is what we can mold ourselves towards,” she said. 

Considered the patron of South African Jazz, Masekela’s illustrious career as a trumpeter, flugelhornist, composer, and singer spans a good five decades and he died at the age of 78.

His last performance was in 2010 in Johannesburg where he mounted the stage twice in  the most thrilling concerts which critics have labelled, th epitaph of his career. 

In the 1960s, Masekela relocated to Los Angeles where he went solo, having performed   at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 alongside Otis Redding, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, and Janis Joplin.

He passes away after having given to the world over 40 albums and has worked with Harry Belafonte, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, and Stevie Wonder.