Father of South African jazz Hugh Masekela dies at 78

Posted January 23, 2018 21:09:29

Trumpeter and singer Hugh Masekela, known as the “father of South African jazz” who used his music in the fight against apartheid, has died at 78.

Key points:

  • Masekela’s hit Soweto Blues was a soundtrack to the anti-apartheid movement
  • Another of his songs called for the release of then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela
  • Jacob Zuma says the nation will mourn a man who “kept the torch of freedom alive”

His family said on Tuesday he died from prostate cancer.

In a career spanning more than five decades, Masekela gained international recognition with his distinctive afro-jazz sound and hits such as Soweto Blues, which served as one of the soundtracks to the anti-apartheid movement.

Following the end of white-minority rule, he opened the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup Kick-Off Concert and performed at the event’s opening ceremony in Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium.

“Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre, and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memory of millions,” a statement on behalf of the Masekela family said.

“Rest in power, beloved, you are forever in our hearts.”

His song Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela), written while Masekela was in living in exile, called for the release of the then-imprisoned Mandela and was banned by the apartheid regime.

South African President Jacob Zuma said the nation would mourn a man who “kept the torch of freedom alive”.

“It is an immeasurable loss to the music industry and to the country at large. His contribution to the struggle for liberation will never be forgotten,” Mr Zuma said in a statement.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa tweeted: “A baobab tree has fallen, the nation has lost a one of a kind.”

After honing his craft as a teenager, Masekela left South Africa at 21 to begin three decades in exile.

His global appeal hit new heights in 1968 when his instrumental single Grazin’ in the Grass went to number one in the US charts.

As well as close friendships with jazz legends like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Mingus, Masekela also performed alongside stars Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s.

He was married to singer and activist Miriam Makeba, known as “Mama Africa”, from 1964 to 1966.


Topics: arts-and-entertainment, music, history, community-and-society, death, south-africa

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Chinese authorities crack down on burgeoning rap scene

Updated January 23, 2018 18:35:14

China’s broadcast regulator has issued new standards specifically warning entertainment programs not to feature guests who promote hip hop culture, in its latest effort to purify the country’s cultural output.

Key points:

  • State media campaign initiated against Chinese rapper PG One
  • Entertainment programs “resolutely don’t need” guests promoting hip hop culture, states guidelines
  • Until recently hip hop was a niche subculture

The standards were not released publicly, but were published online by Chinese entertainment outlets and correspond with a state media campaign against one of the country’s most famous rappers.

In recent weeks, breakthrough rapper PG One has come under fire for the content of some of his lyrics, which state media say promote misogyny and drug use.

Outlets like the jingoistic Communist Party-owned Global Times have cited lyrics such as “pure white powder in a line” and “shameless bitch with restless hands” as examples.

The campaign gained steam after the 23-year-old became the centre of a celebrity scandal that linked him with a famous married actress Li Xiaolu.

The scandal prompted fans to trawl PG One’s lyrics, and the offending lines triggered a government campaign that has now seen the rapper’s songs removed from many online music platforms.

But the campaign didn’t stop there.

The new guidelines from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television stipulate four types of guests that entertainment programs “resolutely don’t need”.

Among the list, guests who promote “vulgarity”, “values different from the Party” and “sub cultures”.

Specifically, guests who promote hip hop culture and tattoos are listed in the guidelines.

The leak of the new rules coincided with the sudden removal of another star rapper from a popular television singing program.

Twenty-nine-year-old GAI, the joint winner with PG One of a massively popular hip hop contest last year, has suddenly disappeared from a Hunan television program that he featured on alongside international stars such as Jessie J.

GAI’s removal came despite a recent media appearance in which he appeared to ingratiate himself with authorities by praising “the motherland” in song.

Chinese hip hop goes mainstream

While US hip hop has long been popular among some young people in China, the homegrown variant has until recently remained a niche subculture.

But the popularity of the online program China Has Hip Hop in which PG One and GAI emerged last year thrust the genre into mainstream popularity.

State media opinion writers have stressed that the traditional anti-authoritarian themes that emerged from American MCs rapping about racial discrimination, drug use and gang violence are not suitable for China.

The official pushback comes as China’s government stresses increasing confidence not just in its system of governance, but in the promotion of traditional Chinese culture and “socialist” values.

Hip hop’s future uncertain

President Xi Jinping stressed the need to “perfect the systemic management of culture” during a major speech in Beijing late last year.

Since the country’s opening up in the late 1970s, Chinese leaders have sought to retain a protective membrane on overseas influence — embracing ideas they regard as constructive while using repressive measures to block “harmful” influences.

For young hip hop fans like Beijing resident Cai Malong, the campaign against rap does not bode well.

“Hip hop is in such a rudimentary stage in China, my friends all listen to pop and don’t have any real feeling for rap,” he said.

“If the Government doesn’t support hip hop, it’ll be very difficult for it to grow.

“Its future prospects don’t look bright.”

Topics: music-industry, censorship, popular-culture, arts-and-entertainment, government-and-politics, china, asia

First posted January 23, 2018 18:33:05

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