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Masekela's thank you tour

By Dimakatso Motau | 2012-11-30 07:21:36.0

TOWNSHIP CELEBRATIONS: Legendary musician Hugh Masekela is giving back through his township tours, starting in Alex in December

HUGH Masekela believes the government has neglected the arts. He says a country that does not celebrate its culture has no sense of pride.

The 73-year-old musician and internationally acclaimed artist, whose name is synonymous with our musical heritage, gushes about his recent trip to Brazil.

He was impressed at how proud Brazilians are about their culture and heritage.

"South Africans are culturally backwards. I do not blame them because there was no clear mandate when we went into a democratic government," he says.

"During apartheid musicians were busy because we sang about the injustices of oppression and we used music to create awareness."

Lamenting our political situation, Masekela urges politicians to stop blaming others and to help rebuild the nation.

"Such behaviour has the potential for civil war or a period of uncontrolled violence like in the Sudan, Ivory Coast and Egypt," he says.

He says South Africans must protect their cultures, their dance, song and rituals must be used to encourage people to continue honouring the legacy of their ancestors.

"Three generations from now, when children ask parents about their culture and family trees, they will find it difficult to trace," he says.

To deal with this issue he is working with the African Leadership Academy to build an amphitheatre at its campus in Honeydew, Johannesburg.

"I want to preserve our culture not only through music and theatre, but through a unique technological system that allows us to punch in a surname to trace a clan.

"The amphitheatre will hopefully be launched late next year. It is my dream to see it completed," he says.

With more than 41 albums to his credit, Masekela released his latest double CD, Playing@Work, last week.

All the songs have strong messages on societal issues. Tracks such as Sugar Daddy and Go Look Out For Mama admonish older men who abuse young girls and tells us to value parents.

He says the album is a combination of the township sound, his trademark jazzy instruments and influences of West African music.

He is proud that he has produced the album independently from the new Pretoria studios he built two years ago under his new record label, House of Masekela.

Speaking about his now defunct record company, Tshisa Records, he says he had to liquidate the company five years ago when an executive allegedly defrauded the company.

Together with insurance company Assupol, he is embarking on a township tour from December 9.

He will perform in Alexandra and Soweto among other townships still to be confirmed .

He wants to give back to the communities that have supported his music for decades.

"It is unbelievable that I was raised in Alex, but I have never performed there. I will kick off the tour in Alexandra at 3 Square, which was the hub of resistance. I chose this venue to kick-start my township tour because apart from my being raised there it also has political and historical significance," he says.

The tour will move to the Cricket Oval in Soweto on December 16.

"The township is where it started for me, hence I am going back to say thank you and perform for my fans," Masekela says.

He admires young artists who know their heritage.

"I admire Thandiswa Mazwai for taking a pilgrimage to search for her roots. Zolani Mahola from Freshly Ground and Afro-pop singer Pu2ma are in tune with their culture," he adds.

Now that his five children have grown up, Masekela says that he indulges his two grandchildren.

"I am a 'luxury' grandfather. They can ask me for anything and get it. My first grandchild, who will be turning eight soon, will be spoiled on his birthday when I take him with me on an overseas trip," Masekela says.