Hugh Ramapolo Masekela, or "Masekela," as he was known in America, was the original creator of the 1968 instrumental mega-hit, GRAZING IN THE GRASS.
Masekela was born on April 4, 1938 in Kwa-Guqa Township, Witbank, South Africa. He grew up in a house filled with music, but did not receive his own instrument until he was 14 years old. He had a deep desire to own a trumpet after watching the 1950 film, Young Man With a Horn. He was eventually forced to flee his country after the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre and was eventually helped by friends to gain admittance into London's Guildhall School of music. During that time, he visited the US and became friends with the amazing Harry Belafonte. He went on to attend the Manhattan School of Music (New York) where he studied classical trumpet from 1960 to 1964. There are conflicting accounts about how many times he was married. However, it is known that his second marriage was to Chris Calloway, daughter of Cab Calloway.
Masekela was one of the first artists to bring South African jazz to the United States, releasing Trumpet African in 1962. His breakthrough album was called, The Americanization of Ooga Booga. One of his original titles on the album was a cover he did for Herbie Hancock. The 1968 hit that Americans know him for -- Grazing in the Grass -- sold 4 million copies.
Masekela received many awards during his lifetime, including the MTV Africa Music Legend Award, and the South African Music Award for Best Adult Contemporary Album. He is heralded as "a pioneer of jazz in South Africa and a campaigner against apartheid" after he escaped the country. He was also a powerful singer and songwriter too, and used his music and his voice "to attack the apartheid regime that had banished him from his homeland." Masekela had a profound influence on the direction of jazz in the 1960's.
Hugh Ramapolo Masekela died from complications of prostate cancer on January 23, 2018.
For more details on Hugh Masekela's life, see:
Hugh's Official Site - https://hughmasekela.co.za/
South African History Online - https://www.sahistory.org.za/people/hugh-masekela
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