Legendary musician Ramapolo Hugh Masekela has died at the age of 78 on Tuesday morning.
His family issued a statement on Tuesday to confirm the news.
“It is with profound sorrow that the family of Ramapolo Hugh Masekela announce his passing. After a protracted and courageous battle with prostate cancer, he passed peacefully in Johannesburg, South Africa, surrounded by his family.”
“A loving father, brother, grandfather and friend, our hearts beat with profound loss. Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre, and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memory of millions across 6 continents and we are blessed and grateful to be part of a life and ever-expanding legacy of love, sharing and vanguard creativity that spans the time and space of 6 decades. Rest in power beloved, you are forever in our hearts.”
“We will, in due course, release details of memorial and burial services. Hugh Masekela was someone who always engaged robustly with the press on musical and social political issues. We laud the press for respecting his privacy through his convalescence, and during this, our time of grief. Our gratitude to all and sundry for your condolences and support.”
Masekela’s team released a statement in October saying he had been battling prostate cancer since 2008. In March 2016, the musician underwent eye surgery after the cancer spread. He was then sent to theatre in September 2016 after another tumour was discovered.
Commonly known as Bra Hugh, the legendary muscian has been described as the “father of South African jazz.” Masekela was known for his jazz compositions and for writing well-known anti-apartheid songs such as “Soweto Blues” and “Bring Him Back Home”.
Hugh Masekela early life
Hugh was born on the 4th April 1939 in KwaGuqa Township, Witbank, South Africa to Thomas Selena Masekela, who was a health inspector and sculptor and his wife, Pauline Bowers Masekela, a social worker.
At just 21 years old, in 1960, Masekela was to spend 30 years in exile when he arrived in New York and enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music.
He returned to South Africa in 1990 after the ANC (African National Congress) was unbanned and former president Nelson Mandela was released from prison.
He was married to singer and activist Zenzile Miriam Makeba from 1964 to 1966. In 1999, the musician got married to Elinam Cofie.
In 2010, President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma honoured him with the highest order in South Africa: The Order of Ikhamanga, and 2011 saw Masekela receive a Lifetime Achievement award at the Womex World Music Expo in Copenhagen.
According to reports, Bra Hugh had released 40 albums, and worked with artists such as Marvin Gaye, Brenda Fassie and Stevie Wonder.
His greatest hits include Khauleza, Thanayi, Ziph’ Nkomo, Mama, Chileshe, Stimela (Coal Train) and Vasco Da Gama (The Sailor Man).
Masekela leaves behind his wife of 18 years, Elinam Cofie, his daughter, Pula Twala, and his son, Selema “Sal” Masekela, from his relationship with Haitian Jessie Marie Lapierre.
Watch Thanayi by Hugh Masekela below:
May his soul rest in peace.