Hugh Masekela: Google Doodle celebrates South Africa jazz icon and anti-apartheid activist
Google has unveiled a new addition to its Doodle series featuring Hugh Masekela, a legendary jazz musician known as the “father of South African jazz” who was also an anti-apartheid activist.
Masekela was a rare artist who succeeded in fusing politics with his music, making his songs and performances compelling and timeless.
He passed away in Johannesburg last year at the age of 78 after a decade-long fight with cancer. Masekela would have turned 80 today.
Trumpeter, singer and composer, Masekela, affectionately known locally as “Bra Hugh”, started playing the horn at 14. He quickly became an integral part of the 1950s jazz scene in Johannesburg as a member of the band the Jazz Epistles and a member of the orchestra in the groundbreaking jazz opera “King Kong”.
“My biggest obsession is to show Africans and the world who the people of Africa really are,” Masekela once said. The quote was featured prominently Wednesday and Thursday on Google’s Doodle page for US and UK users.
In the 1960s he went into exile in the United Kingdom and the United States, using his music to spread awareness about South Africa’s oppressive system of white-minority rule. He scored an international No 1 hit in 1968 with “Grazing in the Grass.”
“Today’s Doodle celebrates the world-renowned South African trumpeter, singer, bandleader, composer, and human rights advocate Hugh Masekela,” a blog post by Google read. “Born 80 years ago today in the coal-mining town of Witbank, South Africa, Masakela got his first horn at age 14.”
In the 1980s, Masekela appeared with Paul Simon and several other South African musicians as part of the Graceland album tour.
Many of his compositions were about the struggle for majority rule and full democratic rights in South Africa. His catchy upbeat 1987 song “Bring Him Back Home” calling for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison became an international anthem for the anti-apartheid movement.
Masekela supported many charities and was a director of the Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organisation to provide daily meals to students in the Soweto township.
The Associated Press contributed to this report