Cape Town - Simphiwe Dana couldn’t hold back tears when she spoke about the late Hugh Masekela.
The award-winning artist woke up on her birthday to news that her friend and mentor had died after battling with prostate cancer since 2008.
According to the family’s statement, 78-year old Hugh passed away peacefully in Johannesburg, surrounded by his family.
Speaking to YOU magazine, Simphiwe (38) said she found out he was ill when it was announced in the media last year.
“Bra Hugh hid his condition very well,” she said.
“So, he just allowed his family members and close government members to go see him.”
The songstress said she tried to go see him but couldn’t because he was a private person.
Simphiwe, who also poured her heart out in an Instagram tribute to her late mentor, has known Bra Hugh for many years.
But she got to know another side of her icon when she was involved in a horrific accident in 2005 while she was eight months pregnant.
“He came to see me at my home all those years ago,” she said.
“He was one of the first people to come to my house to visit and check up on that.”
A few years after that they started talking about working on an album together, she reveals.
“He hired a Thai Chi [instructor] and paid for it so that I can be spiritually, emotionally and physically ready to start the creative process,” she said.
“He revered me that much.”
She says she’ll always remember Bra Hugh as someone who has lived his life.
“I’m feeling a bit sad but not too much,” she told us.
“Also knowing cancer, it’s an evil disease. You waste away literally until there’s nothing of you is left. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” she added.
“I feel like he’s resting.”
Simphiwe says she was yearning to see him in his last days and she even reached out to Bra Hugh’s manager.
“I had a feeling he’d not recover after losing quite a few people to cancer.”
They’ve shared fond memories over the years and that’s what she’s holding to.
“I actually had a small crush on him because of his character,” she said with a chuckle.
She still marvels that a legend like him could embrace a young artist like herself.
“He was very hard on me. He’d tell me if I was messing up and not sugar coat it.”
“I’d sometimes get a bit mad and ask, ‘Why is Bra Hugh so hard on me?’ But I really appreciated that about him.”
He also taught her an important life lesson as an artist.
“One thing that Bra Hugh was adamant about was never to lose his temper.”
She says as artists don’t always get the best treatment when they’re out there performing.
“I used to get so hurt, you’d go perform and no one has prepared water and there’s nothing.”
“But what Bra Hugh taught me is never let people see that side of you, just stay calm and go sing and be professional. The audience doesn’t know what’s going on backstage. They come because they love you. Do your work and go home.”
And Simphiwe will carry that with her for the rest of her life.
“I’ll always remember his young spirit and dedication to his music,” she says, sobbing.
She doesn’t know how she’s going to celebrate her birthday now that her friend is no more.
“I had plans for lunch and dinner with my friends and something bigger over the weekend. But now I’m going to go passed his family home before anything else today and I’ll see it from there.”