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Lesotho mourns Hugh Masekela

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE local entertainment recently joined the rest of the world in mourning internationally acclaimed South African Jazz maestro, Hugh Masekela, who died last Tuesday at the age of 78 after a long battle with prostate cancer.

An iconic composer, singer and instrumentalist, Masekela’s career spanned over five decades in which he released 40 albums and gaining international recognition with his distinctive Afro-Jazz sound and hits such as “Soweto Blues”, which served as one of the soundtracks for the anti-apartheid movement.

He was billed to perform in Lesotho on 23 December 2017 at the Lesotho Tourism Festival (LETOFE) but he had to cancel due to deteriorating health.

A letter that was written to LETOFE organisers in December by his manager, Andrew Josh Georgiou, indicated that he was unable to come “due to medical reasons”.

“He (Masekela) had been making good progress while receiving treatment but unfortunately contracted a ‘super-bug’ virus in the hospital which significantly impacted on his recovery,” the letter stated.

“Thankfully he has managed to beat the virus but his doctors have advised against any travel or live engagement in order to have sufficient time to rest and recuperate.

“Bra Hugh is very sorry to disappoint his fans in Lesotho but hopefully we can reschedule for a suitable date in the new year.”

LETOFE Sound of Blue principal organiser, Montoeli ‘Moleli recently told this publication that Masekela’s death came as a huge blow as they had expected he would make it to the festival this year.

“We had booked Bra Hugh very early last year for LETOFE and when he had a setback around June he suspended his shows for three months but promised he would make it to LETOFE since it was scheduled for December,” ‘Moleli said.

“I visited his office in Johannesburg in October to have him sign the guitar which was presented to Frank Leepa’s family during the festival and on my way there I learned that he had been admitted in hospital after catching a bug.

“Bra Hugh loved Lesotho so much, especially Thaba Bosiu as the hub of Basotho history and was greatly looking forward to performing there and even when he cancelled many other shows he never cancelled LETOFE. He was still looking forward to making it up to his fans this year and we had also hoped he would beat the cancer and come through but unfortunately lost the battle.

“His death is a huge blow to the entire industry and I am preparing to go to his memorial to pay my last respects, to a colleague and friend.”

‘Moleli further revealed that Masekela was not only a business associate but a friend, further recalling the memories they shared together.

“I was introduced to Bra Hugh by Ntate T?epo (T?ola) back in 2003 when I booked (the late) Jabu Khanyile through Bra Hugh’s Chissa Records. After that I worked with him in 2006 when we collaborated with him and Don Laka to host an indoor Jazz show at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre which was sold out.

“Due to the high demand that year, he came back in December for LETOFE. He was a close friend of Bra Tom (Prime Minister Thomas Thabane) and while performing at LETOFE that year he shouted La Chaba, which is Bra Tom’s ABC party slogan. That was followed by a lot of comments as ABC had just been born and it was ahead of the 2007 national elections.

“I believe whoever Bra Hugh met on a business level ended up being his friend for he always turned each relationship into friendship. I remember when he first came to Lesotho and I had to pick him from the airport as we had only been talking over the phone and he was constantly referring to me as Ntate Montoeli and when I got there he jokingly said he disgusted to have called a boy Ntate.

“Every time he came to Lesotho he would prefer to be hosted by me. There was this time he came for the Morija Art and Cultural Festival. He arrived on a Friday and on Saturday he asked me to take him to Ntate T?epo Tsola’s home in Teyateyaneng as Ntate T?epo’s sister had passed on.

“He was a punctual person and one time I went to fetch him from the hotel and found him already waiting outside and he told me I was five minutes late. He would arrive a day before his shows and we would go to the Chinese restaurant as he loved their food. Before every performance he would pray with his band, he was simply amazing,” he said.



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