I have been listening to and following jazz, funk, soul artist Hugh Masekela since my early college years. I used to go see him annually at a club just outside of Boston. One of my student-colleague’s parents used to take us to the club because we were not of club age at that time. I remember the ambience created by Mr. Masekela’s soul enhancing music while we were ‘Grazing Through the Grass’ of the sixties and seventies. I’ve never been without this music.
The music followed me and us through the anti-apartheid activities that ultimately help lead to the end of that heinous system of separation and disenfranchisement in Mr. Masekela’s native land, South Africa. Actually, Bra Masekela, as he is affectionately called by his countrymen and admirers, played a key role internationally in actively resisting the apartheid system.
I had the opportunity to visit South Africa in 1996. I traveled to both Cape Town and Johannesburg where among other things I was hosted for an evening by a family in Johannesburg’s Soweto, Township. One thing I found during my short stay in South Africa is that the people there appreciate the role of the African American in the world struggle for justice and inclusion. I was honored there as a ‘comrade’ and sister on every front being called by the moniker Sis Lin during my stay. The night that I stayed with my Soweto family was one of the coldest nights that I had ever spent. We wrapped up in blankets in the heatless 1 degree Celsius night and waited for morning. In the morning the Mama heated some water for me to bathe with and I left for the airport thanking my hosts with a small tithe to their local church.
One time when I was living and working in Nairobi, Kenya in the late nineties, a group of my professional colleagues and I were walking in downtown Nairobi after enjoying a dinner out. We heard someone saying “cousins!” We were momentarily informed by a gentleman that we were being greeted by the great Mr. Hugh Masekela. Mr. Masekela was in town for a gig he was playing in Nairobi. Being a group of African American music enthusiasts, we were all familiar with Mr. Masekela’s music and we stopped to tease and chat a bit. Anything can happen in Africa.
A couple of years back I saw Hugh Masekela’s performance at Houston’s International Festival. A group of friends and I danced uninhibitedly to the music that has even gained in texture and maturity throughout Mr. Masekela’s many years in the business. His entourage created an African-like scenario on a world music platform that educated as well as entertained. Mr. Masekela, terms himself a griot. I definitely concur with this title. His music and lyrical stories weave his experience and insights through the lens of his birthplace and home.
I remember feeling somewhat sad when Mr. Masekela’s performance was over. I felt like a family friend was leaving without an embrace. This is the magic of Bra Hugh Masekela’s presence and his music. I am still listening and following him as he continues his work at age 73 and counting. “The Boy Is Doing It!”
©2013 Linda Tauhid for Linda Tauhid’s Journal
Linda Tauhid is a Houston-based writer, poet and griot.