Hugh Masekela–The Boy Is Doing It!

Hugh Masekela

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.

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Inaugural Blues

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INAUGURAL BLUES

There is much that needs to be said these days.  Outside of the meaningless noise and endless spin that often keeps us over-engaged.  Rather, a discourse needs to be established regarding the state of Us, We— here and now.  We have just witnessed a grueling second election of the first African American president of these United States.  The election was filled challenge and angst from beginning to end.  The behavior of contenders of this president freely engaged in some of the lowest hyperbole and innuendo available to public witness.

It is being said that the next four years of the presidency are the years in which the president will look to establish a legacy of his time in office.  In my mind, this legacy may already be established.  What actually remains is how his-story (The president’s) will be ‘spun’.  Since I and you have lived through this time, we are equal candidates to assess the meaning of this presidency, its import and its consequences, its challenges.  If we leave it to popular media and mainstream historians, we may indeed lose the essential power of the great events that we have witnessed.

To a great extent our personal challenges as African American, humans, and others model the challenges that the president has faced if even to a lesser degree of public exposure.  We have all been bullied, our intelligence has been insulted; we have been lied on; lied to; and in general undervalued.  The most powerful legacy that I can distinguish here is that things have not changed very much in the last four to five decades.  We are still operating in a suppressive environment even with all of our advances in access, education and preparedness.  We still host a flourishing ‘underclass’ that is incarcerated, incapacitated or uninvolved in the essential struggle for true human, racial or cultural advancement.

Although as a social commentator, it is my duty to recognize and identify the aforementioned problems and weaknesses, I am at a loss for overall solutions beyond what many of us have already explored. On Monday, many will be celebrating two momentous observances, the second inauguration of President Barak Obama and the observance of the life of freedom fighter and leader Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.. It is somehow fitting that these two observances would fall on the same day.

President Obama has called for a National Day of Service this inaugural weekend.  This approach indeed makes sense for someone like President Obama, a practitioner of the discipline of community organizing who was able to extend those principles into the practical application of two successful presidential elections.  Also, a day of service truly honors the memory of Dr. King.  Although I am observant of  both of these great events, I am unfortunately not particularly celebratory.  The past decade for me has been one of challenge and struggle.  Although I am sure that without the sacrifice of Dr. King and without the efforts and noted accomplishments of our current president, things could be seem and be far worse.

I have talked to many others who have and are experiencing job losses; economic issues; difficulties maintaining mortgages and property and the challenges of managing the impending health issues that face us as we age.  Actually a good number of my professional associates are outside of the United States at this time utilizing their skills where they are valued and paid for.

For these reasons, I am a bit more subdued in the mood and mode of my celebration.  I do, however, remain in service as a community elder, a social historian, an educator and a believer in the possibilities that have not been lost.  I am hoping that this at least will continue to render me active, useful and engaged.

©Linda Tauhid

For Linda Tauhid’s Journal

January 19, 2013