Distinguished South African Jazz legend Hugh Ramopolo Masekela is slated to headline for the much awaited International Safaricom Jazz Festival that is set to take place on the 12th of August 2016 at the Safaricom Jazz Lounge, Uhuru Gardens. The two-time Grammy Award nominee will make his first appearance at the Safaricom Jazz Lounge, which is one of the series of events that will prepare jazz lovers for the annual Safaricom International Jazz Festival.
The 77 year old – who was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1968 for Best Contemporary Pop Performance (Instrumental) for his album ‘Grazin’ in the Grass’ – has released over 40 albums in a career spanning over 60 years, and has worked with numerous artists including Miriam Makeba, Fela Kuti, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Dizzy Gillespie, Otis Redding, Harry Belafonte and Herb Alpert among others. The Jazz maestro said that he is excited to perform for the jazz community in Kenya, one that is slowly building notable reputation and is also gaining recognition in the continent’s jazz circuit.
Safaricom Jazz Entry Charges: Ksh. 2000 for adults and Ksh. 500 for students. Tickets are available at Safaricom shops and on m-ticketing by dialing 1511.
The Safaricom Jazz Lounge will be preceded by the Safaricom Jazz Night, the first of which was held at the Hotel Intercontinental on 28th July 2016. A new addition to the corporate’s jazz calendar, the event will kick off as a series of monthly jazz concerts that will give Kenyan jazz musicians a platform to showcase their talent while at the same time meeting growing demand for quality live music performances. Three bands selected from a round of competitive auditions performed at the inaugural Jazz Night: Nairobi Horns Project, Mwai and The Truth and Shamsi Music. Nairobi Horns Project and Mwai will be performing at the Safaricom Jazz concert this Friday.
The Nairobi Horns Project is a 5 member band that fuses together instrumentalists honed in the art of playing the drums, bass, percussions, guitar and keyboards. The band has had several appearances in Coke Studio Africa, Koroga Festival among others and they use their music as a social platform to engage the youth in activities and conversations spearheaded towards influencing opinions and nurturing values. This is mostly brought out by their Sanaa4Change Project. Some of their performances from the Safaricom jazz night can be found here and here.
Mwai and the Truth band have for over the past six years entertained and livened up the lives of jazz lovers all over Kenya. The established five-member jazz outfit have performed in events such as Hennessy’s Bandage – A Sophisticated Gentleman’s Affair’, The Heineken Mingle among others.
Motivated by the word ‘Shamsi’ which means ‘sun’ in Arabic, Shamsi Music is an instrumental jazz-fusion band that seeks to ‘shine the light’ on Kenyan music by creating and performing songs that entertain, refresh and inspire listeners; which is evident is some of their songs like Kipepeo and My Passion.
The Safaricom International Jazz Festival which is one of Kenya’s premier entertainment scenes has seen the proceeds from ticket sales being donated to the Ghetto Classics music programme which has so far received Kshs 19 million shillings, funds that have gone towards the purchase of music instruments and training of over 500 children from the slum and its environs since 2014. Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore mentioned that this year, the programme hopes to scale up to be able to reach more talented kids in Kisumu and Mombasa. He also pointed out how Masekela’s music has not only played an integral role in advancing Afro – Jazz music on the world stage but has also been able to show the world the roles and importance that music makes in bringing social change.
Here are some facts about the maestro Masekela:
- Born in 1939, Hugh Ramopolo Masekela is not just a world-renowned South African trumpeter, he is also a bandleader, flugelhornist – the flugelhorn is a brass instrument which resembles a trumpet, but has a wider, conical bore, cornetist, singer, composer and an avid defiant political voice.
- Hugh Masekela first mastered the art of playing the trumpet at the age of 14 after one of the most respected advocators of equal rights in South Africa, Father Trevor Huddleston, gifted him a trumpet. He did not take long to practice and master the skill and this led to his schoolmates also sparking up interest which led to the formation of the Huddleston Jazz band – the first youth orchestra in South Africa.
- Most of his music is about the struggle that the blacks faced during Apartheid in South Africa. He points out some issues like how Blacks couldn’t travel on the same carriages in trains. This is strongly pointed out in the song “Stimela (Coal Train)”
- Hugh Masekela left South Africa at the age of 21, a move that saw the immense growth of his musical journey. He enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music in New York and he ended up immersing himself in the golden era of jazz music and under the mentorship of great influencers like Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, he was encouraged to develop his own unique style, a style that would express the African rather than American influences. In 1963, Masekela released his debut album, Trumpet Africaine.
- In 1990, Hugh Masekela returned to South Africa where anti-apartheid laws were finally taking place and performed the anti-apartheid anthem ‘Bring Home Nelson Mandela’ following the unbanning of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela – an event anticipated in Hugh’s anti-apartheid anthem which had been a rallying cry around the world.
- In 1983, Masekela met South African playwrights Mbongemi Ngema, author of several critically acclaimed plays and together with the input of Winnie Mandela, wife of then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela, suggested that they portray the struggle of the resistance to bantu education in south Africa. Ngema then wrote the book and music for what was to become Sarafina! a globally watched portrayal of that even performed in the Toy Award-nominated musical in Europe.
- Masekela has had one of the greatest subsequent solo careers in jazz history; one that has spanned over 5 decades, during which he has released over 40 albums (and been featured on countless more) and has worked with such diverse artists as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and the late Miriam Makeba.
- The ‘Thanayi’ singer and instrumentalist received another Grammy nomination in 2011 for his critically acclaimed album Jabulani. He released his latest album – Playing @ Work – in 2012.
- He is involved in several social initiatives – he serves as a director on the board of the Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization that provides a daily meal to students in the township of Soweto.
- In 2011, he received a lifetime achievement award at the WOMEX World Music Expo in Copenhagen. This was one of the biggest musical achievements in his musical career.
The first edition of the Safaricom International Jazz Festival was held in February 2014 and was headlined by New-York based Cameroonian artist Richard Bona. You can also get to know more about the legacy of the Safaricom Jazz Festival here.