Growth, Growth and More Growth – An Interview with Hugh Masekela


    By George Burrows

    Live Gig Shots spoke with South African Jazz Trumpeter Hugh Masekela  prior to his March 3, 2015 concert at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, Iowa. Hugh stated that his performance is “… aimed at giving great performances of South African music while enjoying our debut as a duo.” (Vusi Mahlasela and Hugh Masekela)


    George Burrows: Jazz is an old form of music (Exact age is unknown).  It is now 2015 and many things have changed. Does 2015 jazz reflect what has happened in the world?

    Hugh Masekela: I don’t connect music with human world events and politics. As a result, I cannot comment from this perspective. I love music for itself and do not categorize it.


    GB: “Bix” Beiderbecke was an early influence on you via the film,  1 “Young Man With a Horn,”  later the record “Clifford Brown Max Roach Quintet.”

    HM: The film inspired me to play the trumpet because of Harry James’s sound on the track. Clifford Brown was an amazing musician and made the trumpet into a beautiful vehicle for excellent playing. I will never reach his technical prowess and harmonic genius but I’m still trying to get there.


    GB: What was the impact of your performance of the first Watts Jazz festival in LA?

    HM: It made me stay and live in Los Angeles because of the large attendance. I had never had such a big following before out LA, I carved a universal audience and made unplanned hit records. It is from there that I was hurled onto the human race.

    GB: In 1967 it was your trumpet solo on The Byrds, 2 ” So You Want To Be a Rock n Roll Star”, which helped propel the song as an anthem of the excesses in rock n roll fame.  (I believe Grazing in the Grass followed?)

    HM: I don’t and have never known the lyrics, I just played from a musical platform at the request of David Crosby and Jimmy Mc Guinn, Crosby became a dear friend from then on.


    GB: Currently you are on tour with another South African musical icon, Vusi Mahlasela in recognition of the start of democracy in South Africa. How did the collaboration materialize into “20 Years of Freedom”?

    HM: The tour is called that by the promoters and agency, we just aimed at giving great performances of South African music while enjoying our debut as a duo.


    GB: In 2004 your autobiography, “Still Grazing”  Mike Tribby stated,Consider (“Still Grazing…” ) a must-have item of world-music documentation and a revealing chronicle of growing up black under apartheid and living long enough to see that pernicious system fall.” In a few words what would you add eleven years later?

    HM: Growth, growth and more growth. Theatre production, acting, writing, community works and the promotion of African Heritage restoration into the lives of our indigenous society as an antidote against being consumed by other cultures.


    GB: Young Man with a Horn is a 1950 musical drama film based on a novel of the same name by Dorothy Baker inspired by the life of Bix Beiderbecke, the jazz cornetist. The movie stars Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, Doris Day, and Hoagy Carmichael, and was directed by Michael Curtiz and produced by Jerry Wald. The screenplay was written by Carl Foreman and Edmund H. North.

    Young Man With A Horn Trailer 1950


    GB: About ‘So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star’): Well, we’d known Hugh Masakela. At that point, we had a manager named Larry Spector, and Hugh was working with Larry, too. So, we knew Hugh, he was just around, and we admired his work and got him in there… Roger McGuinn – Musicangle 2004

    So You Want To Be A Rock n Roll Star 1967

    Hugh Masekela live in Berlin 2014

    Tour Dates

    Mar 01 @ London Music Hall – London, ON
    Mar 03 @ Englert Theatre– Iowa City, IA
    Mar 05 @ Center For Faith & Life – Decorah, IA
    Mar 06 @ Wisconsin Union Theater – Madison, WI
    Mar 07 @ Ordway Center For The Performing Arts – St. Paul, MN
    Mar 09 @ John Van Duzer Theatre – Arcata, CA
    Mar 10 @ Mondavi Center for The Performing Arts – Davis, CA
    Mar 11 @ Zellerbach Auditorium at UC Berkeley – Berkeley, CA
    Mar 13 @ Univ. of California – Santa Barbara – Santa Barbara, CA
    Mar 14 @ Walt Disney Concert Hall – Los Angeles, CA

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