Hugh Masekela and his nephew Mabusha Masekela. InternationalIndiaAfricaExclusiveApril 4 marked the birthday of Hugh Masekela, a South African jazz legend, who was one of the country’s most famous instrumentalists, known worldwide for his distinctive style and anti-apartheid songs. On this occasion, Sputnik sat down to interview his nephew, Mabusha Masekela, who spent many years alongside the musician. Hugh Masekela’s deepest and most lasting influence transcends Jazz, cutting across all musical genres and going beyond the musical realm as it touches upon people’s perception of their lives, their outlook and their approach to the world, Hugh’s nephew and former Zambian President Rupiah Banda’s son Mabusha Masekela revealed in an interview with Sputnik. “His influence is mostly about being yourself, reaching into you and pulling out what is yours and being proud of your traditional roots, whatever those traditional roots may be. And again, as I say, I think his influence cuts across not just jazz, but across all genres. I think his lasting influence […] is in terms of your outlook and your approach,” Mabusha Masekela explains. Moreover, he adds, Masekela’s legacy serves as a light of encouragement for people across the globe, in particular in Africa, to love and appreciate their culture as a whole. His nephew highlighted that the values and ideas the South African musician fought for back then, has not lost any relevance today, saying that it’s extremely important to promote these values among younger generations and make them remember their cultural roots. Recalling his childhood and years spent with Masekela, Mabusha says that while growing up, he was surrounded by people who genuinely cared about Africa, its culture, and the quality of life of people of African descent. At the same time, he states that he wasn’t raised “to be in an enclave” or separate himself, but to consider himself as an African, who is a part of the world just like “anybody else.” Mabusha, who later also devoted his life to music, working in music retail, as well as being a production manager and stage manager, notes that this kind of atmosphere influenced him a lot. He says that he used to love Masekela playing, and always enjoyed his music. Therefore, the greatest influence the musician had on his nephew is his taste of music, as he called it, his “musical eclecticism.” Mabusha explains that Hugh Masekela sincerely loved music, and through his deeds and works, he was able to convey this message of love and inspire people around him. Talking about his experience as Masekela’s road manager, he says that the jazz legend was very passionate about music, which was seen during his concerts. His love for music is something that he inherited from the South African composer, he emphasizes.
"For a time when I was his road manager, and every night he used to go up on stage, every night I had a blast listening to him on stage, like every night. It was fantastic. I just loved his musicality, and just being around that kind of spontaneity and energy," he recalls.
He also highlights that Masekela "had a deep musicality about him." He managed to gather people and great musicians, who loved their job, and inspire them to be "pure musicians," to not just "blow notes," but make their "personality come through in their playing."
"Remember where you come from. Remember your grandmother. Remember your grandfather. Remember the stories that the elders tell that are not written down. Know those things because it's knowing those things that's going to anchor your being and your soul," Mabusha Masekela says.