Tributes at Bra Hugh's final 'Stimela'

Published Jan 29, 2018


Johannesburg- A farewell Stimela memorial service had hundreds of family members, friends and music industry colleagues singing and dancing, with few tears in sight for the legendary Bra Hugh Masekela.

And that was how Masekela would have wanted it a celebration of his life and legacy.

Masekela died at his Joburg home surrounded by his family on Tuesday, after a battle with prostate cancer.

The final public ceremony in the music icon’s honour was held at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto Campus yesterday afternoon.

It was attended by industry heavyweights such as Jonas Gwangwa, Abigail Kubeka, Dorothy Masuka, Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, Oliver Mtukudzi and Caiphus Semenya, who bade farewell to their beloved colleague and friend.

FRIEND INDEED: Oliver Mtukudzi listens to the tributes for Bra Hugh Masekela at the UJ Soweto Campus. Picture: Itumeleng English/ANA

Masekela’s sister, Barbara Masekela, said her brother was very brave and had prepared the family for his passing.

She also thanked the people of South Africa for loving him. In a heartfelt tribute Barbara said her brother “was not afraid of bad things He tried everything in order to win,” she said.

Her memories of his fighting spirit and determination took her back to when he was a child.

"As a five-year-old, Masekela started many fires," said Barbara, adding that it was no secret that her brother had many women in his life. He married four different women, including the late Miriam Makeba and Elinam Cofie.

She said she had a remarkable bond with her sisters-in-law and was grateful to Bra Hugh.

“I can say that I have formed abiding friendships with the women in my brother's life. There are two children here whom we love He didn’t marry their mothers,” she said.

FELLOW MUSICIAN: Jonas Gwangwa on stage. Picture: Itumeleng English/ANA

Barbara acknowledged the presence of Jabu Masekela and the woman with whom her brother spent the last days of his life, Nomsa Manaka.

“In his final days he met another beautiful woman. He was devoted to her and she was devoted to him to the end,” Barbara said.

“We thank them and we will forever be grateful to them,” she said.

The legendary trumpeter, corneter, singer and composer died at 78. Throughout his long life he was able to build many long-lasting friendships in and out of the music industry.

POWERFUL SEND-OFF: Letta Mbulu and Caiphus Semenya. Picture: Itumeleng English/ANA

His best friend Stewart Levine sent a special tribute read out by Masekela’s nephew, Mabusha Masekela.

Levine said his friend was one of few musicians who were able to address injustices in South Africa and in America.

“No one has ever used music as he did. He eventually became one of the world’s greatest entertainers,” said Levine.

HONOURED: Images of Bra Hugh Masekela at the memorial. Picture:Itumeleng English/ANA

Among the government officials present was Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Gauteng Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation MEC Faith Mazibuko.

In her tribute, Mazibuko said with the family's blessing, her department would like to engrave Bra Hugh’s name in history as a way to remember the jazz giant.

In an 80-minute tribute, different artists, such as his close friend Mtukudzi, Thandiswa Mazwai, the vibrant Letta Mbulu, crooner Ringo Madlingozi and Lira, among others, took to the stage and performed tributes to Masekela.

Mtukudzi spoke about how Bra Hugh had danced for him just a month ago.

Mazwai chose to perform a rendition of Stimela as her tribute to him.

SOWETO BLUES: Lira performs the popular song written by Bra Hugh Masekela for Miriam Makeba. Picture: Itumeleng English/ANA

Lira took on the mighty Soweto Blues by Miriam Makeba and written by Masekela. Masuka had the audience dancing to Khauleza, while Caiphus Semenya conducted the band.

The mood was one of joy, nostalgia and reflection as the life of the iconic musician was celebrated.


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