Hugh Masekela, South Africa’s trumpeter, jazz artist and music legend, is dead. He died of prolonged prostrate cancer. He was aged 78.
His family first made his death known in a statement.
“After a protracted and courageous battle with prostate cancer, he passed peacefully in Johannesburg,” Masekela’s family said in a statement.
It hailed his “activist contribution” to music, which it said “was contained in the minds and memory of millions.”
Later, South Africa’s minister of arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa confirmed the death on Twitter, with a moving tribute.
“A baobab tree has fallen, the nation has lost a one of a kind musician with the passing of Jazz legend bra Hugh Masekela. We can safely say bra Hugh was one of the great architects of Afro-Jazz and he uplifted the soul of our nation through his timeless music”, Mthethwa tweeted.
There has been an outpouring of tributes to his music, his long career and his anti-apartheid activism.
South African President Jacob Zuma praised Masekela as a “jazz artist, legendary trumpeter, cultural activist and liberation struggle veteran.”
“He kept the torch of freedom alive globally fighting apartheid through his music and mobilising international support,” Zuma said.
“It is an immeasurable loss to the music industry and to the country at large.”
Masekela fled apartheid South Africa in 1960, and did not return until after the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990.
Among his greatest hits were the beloved anthem “Bring Him Back Home”, demanding Mandela’s freedom from jail, and “Grazing in the Grass”.
Grazing In The Grass topped the Billboard Hot 100. He was the first African male Grammy nominee (1968). He won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the CHOMVA, Ghana Music Awards, Jazz FM Awards and MAMAs.