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Jazz legend Hugh Masekela dies at 78

RIP: Hugh Masekela

Legendary jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, a leading figure in the struggle to end apartheid and 'the father of South African jazz', has died aged 78 after a decade long battle with cancer.

Born April 4, 1939, in Witbank, Johannesburg, South Africa, Masekela succumbed to prostate cancer today morning.

"After a protracted and courageous battle with prostate cancer, he passed peacefully in Johannesburg, South Africa, surrounded by his family," read the statement from his family. 

The musician's team released a statement in October saying he had been battling prostate cancer since 2008. The jazz veteran underwent eye surgery in March 2016, after, the cancer spread, and he had to go into theatre again in September 2016 after another tumour was discovered. 

Starting out

Masekela was inspired to learn the trumpet after seeing Kirk Douglas play Bix Beiderbecke in the 1950 film Young Man with a Horn. He persuaded one of his teachers, an anti-apartheid crusader, Father Trevor Huddleston to buy him an instrument, promising to stay out of trouble in return.

In 1960, aged 21, he left South Africa to begin what would be 30 years in exile from his birthplace. Under the tutelage of Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, he was encouraged to develop his own unique style.

In 1967, he performed at the Monterey Pop Festival alongside Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, The Who and Jimi Hendrix. The following year, his instrumental single Grazing in the Grass topped the charts in the US and became a worldwide hit.

Masekela returned to South Africa in 1990 following the release of Nelson Mandela, whose freedom he had called for in his 1986 anthem, Bring Home Nelson Mandela.

In June 2010, he performed at both the opening concert of the Fifa World Cup and the tournament's opening ceremony in Soweto's Soccer City.

Performing in Uganda

Uganda’s love affair with South Africa and its music stretches way back and Hugh Masekela equally had a huge following here.

He performed in Kampala three times the first one being in 2006, 2015 and February 2017 was last time the trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and singer was here.

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