27 January 2018, Johannesburg, South Africa – On 23rd January 2018, the great jazz legend and anti-apartheid struggle icon, Hugh Masekela, passed on. Bra Hugh was a hero to many – through his life as a struggle icon, and his genius as a jazz musician. To celebrate his life, Universal Music Group and Havas Southern Africa pay homage in sound, a language well understood and well mastered by the great man himself. The tribute marks the passing of a legend and celebrates a life well lived; an epitome of freedom both in his contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle and to jazz worldwide.
The tribute to Bra Hugh is a re-imagination of the Last Post, a ceremonial music call, traditionally done on a bugle. It is a sad, brassy sound, which was used to signal the end of a day during war-time, and over time has been appropriated to pay homage to respected veterans. In this tribute, trumpeter Adam Howard uses the flugelhorn and in true jazz form, improvises on the piece, Hugh Masekela-style. The result is a melancholic sound, peppered with the hops and skips that we have all come to associate with the sound of Bra Hugh.
“The entire Universal Music Group family is saddened by the loss of a legend and father of music, Bra Hugh Masekela. We’ll miss his humour, his love of performing and his warm personality. Thank you for leaving us with your music and the beautiful memories, and we hope that with this tribute, we too express our appreciation for a life well lived. Hamba Kahle Bra Hugh,” said Sipho Dlamini, MD of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Sarahan Africa.
“There is a back story to our Bra Hugh Tribute. We heard the news and it hit everyone really hard. On Thursday, one of our teams came up with the incredible idea as a fitting tribute: to take the traditional, sombre Last Post and interpret it into something Hugh would have played. Amazingly from there, everything just aligned. Rob Shroder of Rob Roy Studios gave his studio time and expertise, and recommended Adam Howard to play the piece. Howard, who has toured with Hugh, agreed to do the tribute at no cost. Hoping to keep it together and not get emotional during the session, Howard borrowed from Hugh’s improvisation style and performed with Bra Hugh’s favourite instrument. Everything just came together for Bra Hugh and what we have is a tribute befitting a legend – the Last Post reimagined,” said Fiona O’Connor, Joint Executive Creative Director at Havas.
“The inspiration for the tribute is jazz. Jazz is about recognising the lines, and deliberately colouring outside of them. It is about knowing the ‘rules,’ and deliberately going against them to explore unchartered paths and produce sounds unimagined. Jazz is about freedom, and the sounds of Bra Hugh carried that freedom, with all its anguish and all its joys. He left an indelible mark in the hearts of all he in touched in person, and through his sound. His is a story that will continue to inspire South Africa and the rest of the world for generations to come,” said Tumi Sethebe, Joint Executive Creative Director at Havas.
Bra Hugh leaned on the trumpet as his expression of resistance, and along with his contemporaries, took South Africa to the world using his craft. As jazz is about freedom, so was Bra Hugh’s life; a life lived in pursuit of freedom during the anti-apartheid struggle days, and that freedom won, magnificently expressed in his music.
#RIPBraHugh. Hamba Kahle, Bra Hugh.