The South African trumpet and vocal jazz legend was a dedicated civil rights campaigner
Legendary South African trumpeter and vocalist Hugh Masekela has died at the age of 78. His family confirmed he passed peacefully in Johannesburg after a long battle with prostate cancer.
He achieved global recognition for his distinctive afro-jazz sound, which he developed after persuading a teacher to buy him a trumpet to keep him out of trouble. Along with musicians like Abdullah Ibrahim (then Dollar Brand), he formed the Jazz Epistles, which in 1959 recorded the first album by a black South African band, Jazz Epistles, Verse 1.
A year later, in 1960, Masekela left South Africa in exile aged 21, and worked with Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong while continuing to campaign against apartheid. He was a tireless activist, working across the world to promote the cause and bring international attention to the injustices taking place, using his words, his music and his voice. He didn’t return to South Africa until the release of Nelson Mandela 30 years later.
In 2015, Hugh was honoured at the Jazz FM Awards with the Lifetime Achievement Award. His long-time friend, broadcaster Jon Snow, paid tribute to him, saying "For any of us who were outside, lobbying for change in South Africa he was our theme, our bandsman, our leader and a wonderful wonderful man. There is no other to match him in the world, an emblem and the most brilliant trumpeter of our time."
The full statement from his family is as follows: