'I live life day by day': Hugh Masekela's last interview with TshisaLIVE

23 January 2018 - 11:03 By Chrizelda Kekana
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Hugh Masekela's legacy will live on forever.
Hugh Masekela's legacy will live on forever.
Image: James Oatway

In a rare interview, legendary musician Hugh Masekela sat down with TshisaLIVE in July 2017, just months before his death on Tuesday. 

Journalist Chrizelda Kekana spoke to Bra Hugh about the reason he was so selective with media interviews and his desire to do what he was passionate about. 

Bra Hugh told TshisaLIVE that he just wanted to impart his knowledge and didn't bother too much about his "legacy". 

"I don't have any ambitions [about my legacy]. I just feel that it's work that I am supposed to do, otherwise my ancestors will punish me. Why? Because I got so much from them. But I don't have an ambitious future about 'Hugh Masekela's legacy'."

Bra Hugh said he knew he was living through his "bonus" years and wanted to live it day by day.

"I don't want to live beyond where I am now... and I live it day by day. And, I think once you get too involved with your legacy and all that sh*t, you are swallowed by your own ego." 

Here is the full article as published in July 2017.

Despite undergoing a medical procedure two months ago, legendary musician Hugh Masekela is back on his feet and doing what he loves – making music. This time Bra Hugh, as he is affectionately called, steps into the director’s seat to tell the story of controversial Regina Brooks through a theatre play called Gone Native: The Life and Times of Regina Brooks.

In an interview with TshisaLIVE, Bra Hugh said Regina’s story had fascinated him since he was a youngster and he had a crush on her at the tender age of 15. He said that meeting her decades later brought him joy and a new project to work on.

“The story of Regina Brooks always fascinated me. It happened when I was a teenager, in 1954 when I was 15. We all had a crush on her because she was so beautiful. And we all hated Richard Kumalo because he was a cop.

"I was always interested in her story, so one day about eight years ago, I told a friend of mine, Alf Kumalo: ‘Do you remember Regina Brooks? I would love to meet her and maybe create a project like either a documentary or film or just something.'

"Then he took me to her, and I was so happy to meet her and she told me she knew me from back when I was starting out."

Hugh said that after meeting Regina she said she hoped he would fulfil his promise of telling her life story because so many people had promised to but never did. A few months later, a childhood friend suggested that Hugh create a musical in her honour and that was how the idea of Gone Native was born.

The veteran musician recently had to cancel all his shows following surgery to repair tendon and ligament damage in his shoulder.

Legendary musician Bra Hugh Masekela has died, his family said on Tuesday, January 23 2018, after a battle with prostate cancer. The family said in a statement that Bra Hugh had passed peacefully in Johannesburg, surrounded by his loved ones. In his last interview with TshisaLIVE, Masekela spoke about his views on death.

However, Hugh told TshisaLIVE that even though he had been advised to slow down, he was still involved in heritage-driven projects as he was passionate about it.

“I haven’t done too badly in life so I have the luxury of choosing what I want do. I am more spread out. I am getting into television and cinema, but it is all heritage driven. I am completely heritage captured,” he said.

The celebrated musician said he no longer did anything for money because at his age his wish was just to impart his knowledge and participate in preserving South African heritage. The musical is almost ready, starring the likes of Marietjie Bothma and Ayanda Nhlangothi, and the rehearsals have already been underway for two weeks.

Hugh said capturing the music to complement the story came easy to him because he had lived in the time and place of the story.

“I am a scholar of music and particularly South African music. I know the music, the mood and style of that time. The era in which her story happened was a ‘music rich’ era, I had just started learning the trumpet and I was more into music at that time than any other time,” he said.

The story of Regina is one of a white woman who defied apartheid and in 1955 asked to be reclassified as coloured, so she could live with her coloured child Thandi. This followed her arrest for staying in Orlando, Soweto, with a black police officer, Richard Kumalo.

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