Bra Hugh still on top of his game approaching 75

Bra Hugh still on top of his game approaching 75

World-renowned flugelhornist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer and singer HUGH MASEKELA will once again grace the Kirstenbosch stage when he performs as part of the Old Mutual Summer Sunsets concert series on Sunday, March 9.
Bra Hugh, as he has affectionately become known, is still kicking on the eve of his 75th year and is still as passionate about music as ever, as PETER TROMP found out when he called up the legendary musician.

What do you have in store for your Cape Town fans with this weekend’s performance?
It’s basically the same. When you have been around for as long as I have, people have their favourite songs and if you don’t perform them, they throw rotten eggs and tomatoes at you, so we have to do all the popular songs that the audience likes to sing along to, but we’re also going to do a few songs from my latest album ‘Playing @ Work’, so it will be a nice mixture of new and older material. But we absolutely have to do songs like ‘Stimela’ and ‘Thanayi’, otherwise they’ll beat us up.

So, anyone who hasn’t been to a Bra Hugh show, what would you say they can look forward to?
Most of the time we accompany the audience, so anybody who is new can look forward to singing along a lot and major audience participation. It will be about 6000 people all just singing and dancing. It almost becomes like a spiritual rally in a way with music that many people have grown up with. The people come to hear their songs, so it is a very joyous thing.

In our last interview, you said that you were “just possessed by music” in your formative years. Do you still feel the same way today, as someone who has become regarded as a master of your craft?
There is no master of anything, you know. In the arts you’re always learning. But to answer your question, music isn’t something you can shake off. Once you’re possessed you’re possessed forever, man.

So what keeps that passion alive?
I’ve been crazy about music since I was an infant and nothing much has changed. It’s my daily occupation. The years go by, but the love and passion remain the same. Of course you have to pay rates and taxes and school fees, and that’s its own motivation, because if you don’t play, you starve. Simple as that.

Last time we spoke, you said you were working with players like Cameron Ward (a young guitarist from Cape Town) and bass player Fana Zulu. How important is it to stay connected with younger musicians?
It’s not so much about age. It’s more about how good they are. When a musician is good, age doesn’t play any important part. There are young musicians who aren’t very good, and there’s old musicians who aren’t very good. Since I work very hard at my craft, I try to work with people who work very hard at what they do.

What advice would you give aspiring musicians in the industry right now?
Anybody has to work hard at their craft, but you also have to be honest with yourself. If nobody has told you yet that you’re good at what you’re doing, you should find another profession that you are better at. I don’t think you can go into a profession just because you love it. You have to work hard, and you have to have some semblance of talent and if you’re not honest with yourself, you will always be on the sidelines.

Tell us a little bit more about your most recent album ‘Playing @ Work’.
Any album you make you try to achieve as much excellence as possible so that people will hopefully buy as many copies as possible. We’re a good band and we’ve been together for five years and we tried to play to the best of our abilities. We were accompanied by an outstanding vocal group from Vosloorus that helped us with the background vocals, and they’re a great part of the album. For me it has been a real privilege to play with the calibre of musicians that contributed on the album, and subsequently.
On the album we have an interesting cross section of tracks, instrumental and vocal, with covers of Bob Dylan’s ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ and Bob Marley’s ‘Soul Rebel’ mixing it up with a few songs that I’ve written like ‘Sugar Daddy’ and ‘Africa Unite’. I really believe it is one of our best performed albums, and hopefully people will think so too.

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