Father of South African Jazz Dies at 78


The world of jazz lost a legendary trumpeter and political activist on January 23, 2018. Hugh Masekela known as the “Father of South African Jazz” and for his politically driven songs died of prostate cancer in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was 78.

Born in 1939, Masekala learned trumpet at an early age and began to perform throughout the country. When political conflicts took place during the 1950s and 60s, Masekela began to compose songs that expressed his outlook during these difficult times. It was during this time that Masekala formed the South African group, the Jazz Epistles. As the struggle began to worsen in South Africa, Masekela took refuge in moving to London where he studied trumpet at the Guildhall School of Music. In 1960, he then moved to New York City where he continued his studies at the Manhattan School of Music.

As the Apartheid continued to grow throughout South Africa, Masekela began to use his voice on a global scale to bring justice to those oppressed. His two songs, “Grazing in the Grass” and “Bring Him Back Home”, were considered anthems for change to the ongoing struggle in his home country. It was during the 1980s that Masekela toured with Paul Simon and performed these songs calling for anti-Apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

Masekela continued to perform and release albums well into the 21st Century. For his talents and political activism, he received many honors and awards from many organizations all over the world.

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Photo Credit: Tom Beetz

Jeremy Smith

Jeremy Smith is a trombonist, brass teacher, and blogger. He studied music performance at both Grace College and Carnegie Mellon University, and currently is the bass trombonist for Orchestra Iowa and the Huntington Symphony Orchestra. In 2014, Jeremy started Last Row Music as an online resource of job postings and artist links for brass musicians around the world. When he is not performing or blogging, Jeremy is giving brass lessons to students throughout the country from his home in Centerburg, Ohio.