Hugh Masekela, a hero of African popular music and an inspirational fighter against discrimination, died today in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was 78. Masekela’s rapid ascent to fame in the 1950s led to international recognition of his trumpet playing and his protests against his country’s apartheid policy that for decades subjugated South Africa’s black people. By the time of his 1968 hit “Grazing In The Grass,” he was a prominent figure in world culture. Masekela was a tenacious force in demanding that Nelson Mandela be released from his 27-year prison sentence. His song “Stimela (Coal Train)” was one of his most powerful expressions in that camaign. In this video, he performs it at a festival near London in 1986, four years before Mandela’s sentence ended and he went on to become the first democratically elected president of South Africa.
See this New York Times obituary for a complete account of Masekela’s life.
Hugh Masekela, RIP.