Hugh Ramopolo Masekela was born on April 4th, 1939 in Kwa-Guqa Township, Witbank, South Africa. He is a famous South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer. He started playing the trumpet after seeing the film Young Man with a Horn. He received his first trumpet from Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, the anti-apartheid chaplain at St. Peter's Secondary School. He started the Huddleston Jazz Band, South Africa's first youth orchestra. In 1956 he joined Alfred Herbert's African Jazz Revue. Masekela left South Africa for the United States in 1960 after the Sharpeville Massacre, where 69 peacefully protesting Africans were shot dead. He returned in the early 1990s.
Engagement in Cultural Diplomacy
Masekela plays music that closely reflects his life experiences. He finds his inspiration in the agony, conflict, and exploitation South Africa faced during Apartheid, but he also sings about the joys and passions of his country. He does not only make music, but fights for political change. Maskela used his music to speak out against inequalities and to fight against apartheid. “We have been discouraged from being ourselves and we believe our heritage is backward, primitive, heathen and barbaric so much so that the people who inculcated this thinking in us don’t even need to work on us any more. We have our own people working on us on that.”
Masekela is involved in several social initiatives. He is a director on the board of The Lunchbox Fund. The Lunchbox Fund is a non-profit organization that provides daily meals for students of township schools in Soweto.
Masekela supports the Ubuntu Education Fund. The non-profit organization which strives to support township children in everything they need, by providing world-class health and educational support.
In 2010 Masekela was given the Order of Ikhamanga in the South African National Orders Ceremony by South African President, Jacob Zuma.
The Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival is aimed to bring South Africans together again. Masekela explaines: “It came from wanting to recapture the old times, when there was mutual admiration between different tribal groups, when they gathered on weekends to sing and dance… We would then have people from the suburbs come and join in and this is the rainbow vibe I intend to create for the festival.” The focus lies on local talent, social investment in the community and offering an event that can be enjoyed by everybody.