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Today’s Google Doodle Celebrates Late South African Jazz Legend Hugh Masekela On His 80th Birthday

Google is celebrating the late star's 80th birthday today.

Just about a year ago, Hugh Masekela lost a battle to prostate cancer, two months before his 79th birthday, which is on the 4th of April.

To commemorate the legendary musician and anti-apartheid activist on what would have been his 80th birthday, one of today's Google Doodles is of Bra Hugh.


He was one of the most celebrated jazz musicians in South Africa and the continent at large. He released countless albums and singles, some of which have become standards.

Alongside a gang of South African musicians of that era, including the likes of Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semenya and many others, Bra Hugh helped keep the apartheid government on their toes as they made music for the struggle. They acted as whistleblowers and encouraged the people in the fight against the oppressive apartheid government.

The musician had managed to achieve longevity. He had managed to remain a relevant musician in all eras, having worked with younger musicians such as Black Coffee, TRESOR, J' Something and a few others. A few weeks before his death, he was on the verge of collaborating with the rapper Riky Rick.

Bra Hugh lived the rockstar lifestyle while in exile in the States, and he survived it. He gave some graphic details of his adventures in debauchery in his 2004 memoir Still Grazing, which was reprinted in 2016 after having gone out of print years ago.

Other Google Doodles today celebrate what could have been Maya Angelou's 90th birthday, Senegal's Independence Day and a few more.

Read about Bra Hugh's life and career on Google, here and listen to our playlist of the artist's key songs below:


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6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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