New 'Bra Hugh' album release showcases muso's ekasi style

Hugh Masekela
Image: Veli Nhlapo

To mark the 81st birthday of late jazz maestro Hugh Masekela, a compilation
album featuring some of his hit songs has been released.

Titled Township Grooves, the 18-track album is released by the Hugh Masekela Heritage Foundation and Universal Music.

Township Grooves, which hit the shelves today, features gems that were released by the legend between 1965 and 1974.

According to Masekela's nephew Mabusha Masekela, who assisted in choosing featured songs with the help of Matwetwe Ntombini, the album will remind music lovers where they come from and how rich their culture is.

Mabusha said Township Grooves is a testament to the notion that you can take a person out of the township, but you can never take the township out of them.

He said they wanted to showcase the many facets Masekela had and how he was open to various music styles. He said Masekela was versatile and could play salsa, samba, Brazil rock 'n' roll, Motown and R&B with ease.

The music chosen represents the township, with styles such as marabi, kwela, mbaqanga, jazz and Afro-pop.

"You can find the Miles Davis, Mackay Davashe, we tried to reflect as many sides on what township really means. It showcases that Hugh, who had a rich repertoire, was not afraid to experiment.

"Whether in the early days of his recording career, at the height of his US success or at the beginning of what would evolve into an extended African sojourn, his style always remained from ekasi."

He said the country has a lot to offer and like his uncle, is a proud ambassador of African cultural heritage.

"It is a shame listening to a person singing a Zulu song with an English accent. People like Hugh, Caiphus [Semenya], Letta [Mbulu] and Miriam Makeba promoted the country's culture."

Mabusha admits that it was not easy to choose the 18 songs.

"I know if he was here, he would have suggested we release 36 songs . this is a project that originates from Universal Music and they have a rich catalogue of Hugh's music."

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