Sun. Dec. 05, 2021

Hugh Masekela – Don’t Go Lose It Baby

This Beat Is Mine: Hugh Masekela – Don’t Go Lose It Baby (Stretch Mix) (Jive Afrika)

“Don’t go, don’t go lose it, baby. A winner never, never, never stays behind. A winner comes a quick run far, a winner don’t give up…” As many words I recall whenever in period of doubt. As many words of inspiration I found in this Hugh Masekela‘s song my dad gave me a listen to a kid by the time we were livin’ in South Africa. He left everything behind back in the mid-80’s coz’ he couldn’t stand anymore the climate of hate in the country. He left everything behind and relocated to Belgium, restarting everything from scratch.

It was nothing of an evidence, he explained me years after. But this happened to be the price to pay to offer his family a better life. I became a “zinneke”, as people use to call the ones of different cultures. But almost everyone there is of different cultures which makes life so easier.

With the news of the sad passing of Hugh Masekela, I can’t help thinking of my dad who (also) left a few years ago. With these words resonating more than ever in my mind. “Don’t go lose it baby!”

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With warm thanks to Brussels-based correspondent, Declan Westerhuizen, for this week’s suggestion…

Hugh Masekela is a world-renowned flugelhornist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer and singer. This, in addition to defiant political voice who remains deeply connected at home, while his international career sparkles.

Born in Kwa-Guqa Township, Witbank, Hugh Masekela began singing and playing piano as a child. Eventually learning trumpet by the age of 14. He received his first instrument of the likes the hands from Archbishop Trevor Huddleston. The anti-Apartheid chaplain at St. Peter’s Secondary School.
From the mid-50’s, he would fight against Apartheid. Using his music to reflect the agony, conflict, and exploitation his country was facing.

In 1960, at the age of 21, he left South Africa. Therefore beginning what would be 30 years in exile from the land of his birth. On arrival in New York, he enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music. And from then, he immersed himself in the local Jazz scene there. There, he developed his own unique style under the tutelage of Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong.

Hugh performed alongside countless luminaries. From Janis Joplin to Otis Redding and Ravi Shankar. Not to mention The Who and Jimi Hendrix in 1967. And the following year, his instrumental single – ‘Grazin’ In The Grass’ – went to #1 on the American pop charts. Eventually becoming a worldwide smash. Meanwhile elevating Hugh onto the international stage.

His subsequent solo career spanned 5 decades, during which he has released over 40 albums. He worked with such diverse artists as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie and The Byrds. But also Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Miriam Makeba.

By 1984, he eventually ventured into Jazz/Dance territories. Releasing the memorable ‘Don’t Go Lose It Baby’ as a part of his ‘Techno-Bush’ album on Jive Afrika. An album which received production work by the likes of Stewart Levine. A man with whom he’d put together the Zaire 74 music festival in Kinshasa 10 years before.

Hugh returned to South Africa in 1990. There, he was honoured with the highest order in 2010: The Order of Ikhamanga. After joining U2 on stage in 2011, Bono described playing with Hugh as one of the highlights of his career.

At the age of 75 + Masekela maintained a busy international tour schedule. And he still found time to work with talents. The way he did back in 2009 with Black Coffee on ‘We Are One’. But also with Berita and Oliver Mtukudzi on ‘Mwana Wa Mai’ 4 years later. And, last but not least, with Ralf GUM in 2014 on ‘With Her Hand’ and ‘In The City’.

Hugh Masekela sadly died aged 78 in Johannesburg on Jan. 23, 2018 after battling against cancer.

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