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20 Essential Hugh Masekela Songs

Here are 20 of the best tracks from the South African jazz legend.

Fallen South African jazz maestro Hugh Masekela was a titan.

Sticking to the boundless approach of jazz, the artist had no limits as his music borrowed from a myriad of genres including hip-hop, afrobeat, disco, afropop, house and kwaito.

He was one of the most prominent voices among musicians who used their music to fight and blow the whistle against apartheid.

Unlike many musicians who were vocal during the struggle and ran out of subject matter after apartheid, Bra Hugh remained on top until he took his last breath on January 23.


His last album, No Borders, which was released in 2016 was a tapestry of his musical influences. It featured modern musicians such as Tresor, Kabomo, Dice Makgothi, J'Something (MiCasa) among others. Last year, before he fell ill, he was working on a collaboration with the rapper Riky Rick, which the two musicians were to debut at the Joy of Jazz concert.

As the whole globe is in mourning of the passing of the legend, we select 20 tracks from his extensive catalog, which we feel define his career and the versatile musician he was.

Listen to all of these songs in our Hugh Masekela playlist on Spotify and Apple Music.

"Grazing in the Grass"

On "Grazing in the Grass," it's his trumpet in all tones and pitches that's prominent, and it makes the song the classic it is.

"Stimela (Coal Train)"

Bra Hugh told the emotional story of mineworkers from all over southern Africa who had to leave their families to mine gold for the apartheid government. The song took on a new life when Black Coffee reworked it for a dance music audience.

"Thuma Mina"

On "Thuma Mina," long after apartheid, Bra Hugh carried on his tradition of making songs of hope that addressed ills. Here, he was musing about a future when black people have won the battles against AIDS, violence and poverty.

Mafikizolo feat. Hugh Masekela "Kwela Kwela"

"Kwela Kwela" is perfect. It captures the apartheid days in all ways imaginable; the Afrikaans lyrics, the trumpet, and of course the story being told of cops policing everything black people did.

"Chileshe"

A song about calling out shitty behavior, and also encouraging the downtrodden to stand up for their rights—and it still makes way for the Bra Hugh's musical genius to show. That trumpet solo is money.

"Soweto Blues"

A song written by Bra Hugh and originally performed by Miriam Makeba, "Soweto Blues" is always potent in all forms. It paints the picture of the Soweto Uprising of 1976.

"Goin' Back to New Orleans"

The most potent song on Masekela and his ensemble The Union of South Africa's self-tiled 1971 album, it displays both his trumpet and singing skills, which he doubted for a while.

"Ziph' Inkomo"

"Ziph' Inkomo," a song about lobola, was originally sung by Caiphus Semenya. Masekela's version has no vocals, the man instead opted to use his trumpet as voice of some sort.

"Khawuleza"

On "Khawuleza," Masekela was mourning police brutality against women who sold liquor illegally in the hood. "Fuck The Police" by NWA and "Khawuleza" could be in the same WhatsApp group.

"Thanayi" feat. Thandiswa Mazwai

A song about body positivity, though not deliberate in its approach, "Thanayi" is yet another one where the legend's trumpet co-exists with his singing.

"Mama"

Almost every artist has that one song where they are appreciating the woman who brought them to this earth. Bra Hugh is no exception, and it blends feel and lyrics to full effect–a tearjerker of note.

"Vasco Da Gama"

Vasco Da Gama, the Portuguese explorer who "discovered" Cape Town during one of his imperialistic voyages, got shown the middle finger by Bra Hugh on this song. Christopher Columbus also got the finger.

"African Secret Society"

The artist was never one to shy away from calling out any type of ill. On "African Secret Society," he described the brutal and inhumane ritual of female circumcision.

"Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela)"

This was a call to the apartheid government to free ex-South African president and struggle hero Nelson Mandela and his fellow soldiers. Sonically, the song is funky, but the message was as direct as possible.

"Don't Go Lose It Baby"

While in exile in the US, Bra Hugh tried his hand at rapping, and it worked. He sounded like most rappers from the 70s with simple lines and rhyme schemes. "Don't Go Lose It Baby" is a cross between jazz, hip-hop and disco.

"Sarafina"

This was part of the soundtrack of the classic movie of the same title. "Sarafina" is dance floor-ready with a skittering rhythm and a catchy yet meaningful sing-along hook.

"Mbombela" feat. Sibongile Khumalo

"Mbombela" boasts a full horn section, and the way he went back and forth with Sibongile Khumalo on the vocals, make it one of his one of his most layered songs to date.

"Market Place"

"Market Place" displayed the man's writing skills at using storytelling as a form of social commentary. "Market Place" is one of his most polished storytelling songs, both in terms of writing, and delivery-wise.

"Tapera" feat. Oliver Mtukudzi

This collaborations had been a long time coming after years of sharing the stage. We're lucky to have heard Mtukudzi's guitar and Masekela's trumpet in one song. "Tapera" is a great modern jazz collaboration, and the fact that it's not that big says a lot about Afro-jazz fans and nostalgia.

"Uptownship"


"Uptownship" has a mbhaqanga influence–you hear the screeching organ keys and high-pitched horns, synonymous to the band The Soul Brothers. Masekela's horn gives the song a jazz flavor. With both township and uptown influences, it makes sense why it's called "Uptownship."

Listen to our Hugh Masekela playlist on Spotify and Apple Music.


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Watch the First Episode of Flame’s Documentary Series ‘Welcome To My Life’

Flame takes fans behind the scenes in his new documentary series.

From interviews to smoking sessions, performances, studio sessions and a visit to the hair salon, Flame gives fans a glimpse into his life and adventures.

The South African hip-hop artist and producer shared the first episode of an ongoing documentary series titled Welcome To My Life. The first episode, which he shared today, shows Flame and his affiliates—the likes of Ecco, Mellow and others—going about their business.

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uSanele Releases a New Project ‘uMvelase’ Featuring ASAP Shembe, Windows 2000, Manelisi and Others

Listen to uSanele's new project 'uMvelase.'

South African hip-hop artist uSanele's recently released project is titled uMvelase. "This project," says the artist, "is in honor of my father and family, abakwa Mthembu; all my siblings, extended family and my roots in the heart of KZN, kwaNongoma. It is a calling—if you will—a completion of my journey and all things coming full circle."

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5 Women Doing Amazing Things Behind the Scenes in South African Hip-Hop

Behind every successful South African rapper of the last decade is a woman helping to get ish done. Helen Herimbi spoke to a few of them.

South African hip-hop had a great run in the last decade. As we start a new era, it's important to highlight the women who have played a pivotal role in the growth of the genre.

​Thuli Keupilwe

Thuli Keupilwe is the founder of LAWK Communications, an artist booking and representation agency that now works closely with the likes of DJ Maphorisa and Kabza de Small.

But she's not all about the yanos. Thuli has worked with urban music brands like Dreamteam SA and Homecoming Events, but in 2016, she cast her booking agent net wider and started LAWK Communications where she worked with DJs Capital and Sliqe.

The following year, Thuli received a phone call that would force her to level up. "Boom," she exclaims. "February 2017. PJay from B3nchMarQ called me. I was the one that pushed A-Reece to get onto his first Maftown Heights around 2014 and we're all from Pretoria so I'd known them since forever."

B3nchMarQ and A-Reece were gearing up to leave Ambitiouz Entertainment and when she agreed to be their booking agent, Thuli hadn't anticipated how much it would stretch her. Partly because the artists weren't initially permitted to perform their own songs—problematic for an agent who is meant to book them for gigs.

"I didn't see that coming at all," she says. "I was going up against the big guys, people I looked up to. I realized I needed to get a lawyer." Eventually, the artists were legally permitted to gig. "I had one of my biggest years with Reece after that. I am still with him till today."

A-Reece had managed to amass an enviable fan base size mostly from his online and streaming presence. Thuli works closely with him and counts using A-Reece's "Rich" song in a sync deal with the gambling website BET.co.za as a milestone in their partnership. "It was a good check," she chuckles. "And he was being himself and that's the most important thing to me."

Kay Faith

Authenticity has been the drive behind Kay Faith's work. The Cape Town-based engineer, producer and budding vocalist began her career behind the boards during sessions for the likes of Yasiin Bey, Nasty C and E-Jay.

She put out her own EP, In Good Faith, in 2017, and in 2018, she became the first female producer in the world to be featured on Apple Music's New Artist Spotlight.

She has also given us hip-hop bangers like "Slam Dunk" by Da L.E.S and YoungstaCPT. The latter is a frequent collaborator of hers. So much so that when his album 3T won the Best Album category at this year's South African Hip Hop Awards, she felt it was a win for her too. Especially since projects she'd worked on had been nominated and lost before.

Read: Meet The Woman Engineering Your Favorite South African Hip-Hop Releases

"When we started [the song] 'YVR,' I had this emotional feeling that it would be something big for Cape Town," Kay excitedly says. "From recording to mixing to mastering and featuring as a vocalist on 'The Cape of Good Hope' and 'KAAPSTAD NAAIER,' I was behind all of 3T. I even co-produced the 'Pavement Special' intro and the 'Outro' with Chvna.

"We spent 11 months crafting and him trying to get it to be perfect so it was a surreal feeling when we won Album of the Year. I even sent out a tweet saying: 'Can we just take a moment to realize that the South African Hip Hop Album of the Year was entirely engineered by a woman?'"

Kay's upcoming album, Antithesis is slated for a 2020 release. "It's going to be the first album of its kind, I believe," she says. "And I'm really trying to play with that idea of being the antithesis of hip-hop. I am a woman, an Afrikaans kid, in hip-hop. When I walk in, people don't expect me to be an engineer or a hip-hop producer and when I roll out my accolades, then they're like, 'damn, Kay's got game.' That reaction is what this album is about."

Phindi Matroshe

For Phindi Matroshe, the outside reaction to her work is not the most important thing. Phindi is a publicist and talent manager who owns At Handle, a PR and social marketing solutions firm. She was there before Nadia Nakai became a Reebok or Courvoisier ambassador and before she had sold-out ranges with Sportscene's Redbat.

She was also there when Nadia bagged a Best Female pyramid at the 2019 South African Hip Hop Awards. And she was right beside her when she scooped awards at AFRIMA 2019 for Best Artist, Duo or Group in African Hip Hop as well as Best Female Artiste: Southern Africa.

"Winning awards was never the mission," Phindi confesses. "Honestly, we have never done things to try and get awards. Nadia truly loves what she does and it feels great when that is acknowledged and someone pats us on the back for work we've done. I really love and respect what I do and don't see it as a job."

Having handled publicity for the likes of JR, Tumi Masemola (of Gang of Instrumentals), Shane Eagle, Major League DJs and more, Phindi pivoted to managing Nadia. She says: "Seeing the things we talk about come to life or when we're in the boardrooms signing those deals, those are personal milestones for me."

​Ninel Musson

Ninel Musson has been brokering some of hip-hop's biggest deals for over a decade. She co-owns Vth Season, a boutique full-service entertainment marketing agency with Raphael Benza.

A former party promoter and publisher of the wonted.co.za website, Ninel helped start a record label wing of Vth Season where AKA was their first signee. Together, they turned AKA into a mainstream success that the artist could bank on when he started the now defunct BEAM Group independent record label with Prince Nyembe in 2016.

Recently, Ninel and Benza, together with the Sony Music team, presented AKA with diamond and platinum plaques for several songs at a surprise dinner. "The music we went on to create became some of the best-selling records of all time in South Africa," Ninel says matter-of-factly. "When we started with him, the major labels said SA hip-hop would never go this far. We said we believed it would and then we did."

​Sibu Mabena

Cassper Nyovest seems to make it a point to work with women. In addition to Cassper's sisters running his Family Tree store, several Fill Up dates have seen PR maven, Sheila Afari at the helm. And while it's clear that the Fill Up series was always the brainchild of Cassper and his longtime friend and business partner, T-Lee Moiloa, bringing it to fruition has also included the skills and power of women behind the scenes. Women like Sibu Mabena, a multi-hyphenate creative entrepreneur who owns the Duma Collective.

"The day I landed back home from the EMAs, I went straight to The Dome," she remembers. "I said: 'yo, T-Lee, give me a job. I want to work on this thing.' He was like: 'bra, there's nothing for you to do.'" Sibu stuck around at the Dome, watching the production come together when a lightbulb went on in her head.

Read: Sibu Mabena Works Behind The Scenes in South African Hip-Hop, And She's Kicking Ass

"I thought: 'Cassper has 11 outfit changes. Who is helping him with those?' So Gareth Hadden from Formative, who was building the stage, said they needed someone to help with those changes. I forced myself into the Dome, and the next year I pitched to T-Lee to run the stage at Orlando Stadium. The following year was Fill Up FNB Stadium and there, I got a bigger job to run the talent operations. That's how we started doing the Fill Up Intern Search."

In the next decade of Mzansi hip hop, Sibu has her heart set on parties with a purpose. "All the things I have learnt along the way have led me to contribute to AKA's Fees For All Mega Concert," she shares. "I'm not coming on as just a creative or event organiser or marketer. It's demanding all of me. We're all tapping into a more philanthropic and less commercial role than we usually have so the pressure is that much greater."

There are plenty more women who've got game. From Lerato Lefafa, who has been a part of the team that brought us the SAHHAs and Back to the City to Bianca Naidoo who is a big part of Riky Rick's triumphant trajectory to women like Spokenpriestess, Caron Williams, Azizzar The Pristine Queen, Loot Love and way more who have, in the last decade, used their media platforms to lift up Mzansi hip-hop. In the next decade, women will still be a huge part of hip hop. It'll be interesting to see where that contribution takes the movement next.

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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