A Legacy of Music: Uncle Shima reminisces about Bra Hugh
When the news of South African legendary jazz maestro, Hugh Masekela’s death broke, the world was shattered but in Botswana, one man was truly crushed. As a jazz promoter and radio show host, Monageng has been promoting jazz music for over 25 years and discovering gems in the form of young talent. He is responsible for summoning acts such as Miriam Makeba, Sipho Gumede, Tshepo Tshola, Sonti Mndebele and Jimmy Dludlu to share the stage with up and coming local artists.
“There will never be another Hugh Masekela. That’s how cruel death is but of course all of us will follow soon or later. We see a lot of people close to us passing on but we never come to terms with death or get used to it. It always in one way or the other break our hearts. It is death, a situation whereby a person vanishes from your eyes and from the surface of earth forever. Simply put, death shocks and devastates us. It’s a fact, THE LEGENDARY HUGH MASEKELA IS NO MORE.”
On Tuesday, Monageng co-owner of Millennium Jazz restaurant and host of a jazz music show on Gabz FM every Sunday dubbed “The Joy of Jazz” remembers seeing a Facebook post from one Shike Olsen in the early morning of Tuesday, when Bra Hugh died – “Am I the only one getting the reports that Bra Hugh has passed on? I hope this is a hoax.”
“Of course Shike was not the only one who had heard of the passing on of our beloved father, grandfather, brother, uncle and great music teacher, composer, arranger and performer and activist par excellence. Indeed a lot of people had already come across the shocking and unfortunate news but just that many were still reeling at the news of his death, with shock.”
Affectionately known as Uncle Shima, the avid jazz aficionado added, “For a fact we all wish to celebrate the lives of people who have done it all in life, touched our hearts and impacted positively on us but as human beings, the first inevitable feeling you get is that of sorrow and grief before pulling yourself together and thinking of celebrating the person’s life! It’s natural to grief under such circumstances and I’m among those who find nothing wrong with people who mourn and grief the passing of their beloved ones and even do so by crying. I say to such persons, yes, go on and cry, so long as you don’t mourn and grief forever.”
On Tuesday night, Seabelo Modibe reminded us on his Facebook post to watch a tribute and repeat of Hugh Masekela’s live performance at the Market Theatre via Mzansi Magic Music channel and oh boy, what a spiritual and moving performance of the man we will never meet again on this planet.”
“He was accompanied on stage by the likes of Khaya Mahlangu on saxophone, our very own Bro Blackie John Selolwane on lead guitar, Bass was Fana Zulu and Ezbie Moilwa from Mafikeng etc. I fully concur with Seabelo when he continued to say ‘Dear Hon President… (Sic)…Your Excellency President Mokgweetsi Masisi, please honour this man with a badge, let the Presidential Honours be bigger in 2018.’ However, I would like to advocate that let’s honour them whilst they are still alive especially in direct reference to Bro John Selolwane who has been arguably Botswana’s music ambassador.”
“Another friend of mine Mcjon Mosenene posited ‘The Choo Choo has stopped moving. The flugelhorn has gone silent. Jazz has been thrown into darkness.”
“My humble request would be to humbly invite Bro Jonas Gwangwa to sing, ‘Don’t let the sun dawn on you’. I say this because within a short period, we have lost a number of great musicians in the likes of Ray Phiri of Stimela and many others. Indeed a true legend has fallen – one of the great Architects of Afro Jazz. He had a soft spot for Batswana. He taught and mentored many. He has performed in this country more than any South African legend I have known.”
“He was to perform yet again at the Hamptons in March this year but his deteriorating health got in the way. I have told a couple of my friends including the late Soares (MHSRIP) that Bra Hugh didn’t take nonsense from anybody. My first close encounter with him many years back was at Moretele Park’s Joy of Jazz Festival where he was performing. The sound was not good and he played only two songs and left the stage saying the show promoter may keep his money and he would keep his music. After many other groups had performed, the sound was next to perfection and the jazz maestro came back on stage and did what does best.”
“In one of his shows in Botswana, we went back stage with a number of friends to wait for him so that we could greet him. While on stage, he spotted us waiting back stage. There was this pretty lady who stood there with us. The lady was a bit excited and kept on shouting Hugh Masekela’s name. Bra Hugh looked back and said loudly on the mike – ‘You are making noise and you should say Bra Hugh because I’m not your cousin. Also go and take off that hair off your head.’ The poor lady cried, embarrassed and went to her car and slept throughout the entire show.”
“I also remember at one point at one of his shows where I was not spared. I was talking to him and standing very close to him and he loudly said, ‘Guys, please tell Shimmy that I don’t need his showers! This meant as I was talking drops of saliva oozed out of my mouth. I was truly embarrassed but unlike the lady I didn’t cry or leave the festival. Bro Hugh, the Father of South Africa Jazz, was a marvel to watch on stage. Even at the time when he was living in the evening of his days, he could be seen going down (maget-down) on stage better than those who were half his age.
Rest in Peace Bra Hugh for you have seen it all, done it all and you were larger than life. You enjoyed life to the fullest and you taught us a lot and your music will live on forever since you are leaving behind scores of incredible albums. There will never be another Hugh Masekela.”
Uncle Shima – The Joy of Jazz, Gabz FM