Celebrating Hugh Masekela’s participation in Rand Merchant Bank Starlight Classics.
The sheer force behind Hugh Masekela’s eyes incidentally reveal the passion that is his driving source – or ‘obsession,’ as he calls it – and almost warrants the immensity of his laughter. ‘Where’s the music?’ he jokingly asks his agent while patting the man’s shoulder. The music always comes first for Hugh Masekela. ‘When I went into music there was no industry. I only did music because I love music,’ he says. Masekela has been a musician for 71 years now and coolly acknowledges that he began when he was just an infant.
There was always music in his surroundings as a child and he recalls being infatuated with the gramophone and the wealth of indigenous instruments that would sound through the streets, as he would walk to the shops. ‘When I was five my parents decided to get me piano lessons so that ngingahlanyi! (I don’t go crazy!)’ He punctuated his thought in his Zulu vernacular.
He laughs as he shrugs his shoulders and says, ‘I think I was bewitched, as a child, with music. So when you’re bewitched you don’t need a source of energy. Music captured him before he could remember. He is involved in a variety of artistic outputs now, as he has ventured into theatre, television and other forms and confidently states that he is ready for anything.
‘If you only want to achieve human things and you think that you are beyond nature and you don’t realize that you are a very miniscule part of nature, you already have diminished your potential.’ – Hugh Masekela on his greatness.
He does not perceive himself as a great artist, merely a very lucky man. It is difficult to imagine that an icon of South African jazz, as well as history, who has received a number of Lifetime Achievement awards, several honorary doctorates, and worked with the most renowned names of jazz worldwide, does not conceive of himself as great. He believes that the idea of greatness, and its attainment, is a dangerous notion for the artist. ‘Some people get swallowed by greatness,’ he bemoans. He calls art ‘a very jealous lover’ and warns that when people believe that they are more powerful than the music, they get swallowed by it.