Hugh Masekela

Trumpeter Hugh Masekela is the one South African musician almost everybody has heard of. His American profile received a big boost when he was a member of Paul Simon's traveling Graceland extravaganza, but he's had a strong international presence since he fled apartheid in 1960. His blend of jazz, township jive, pop, and South African folk music was easily accessible to American ears unfamiliar with African styles, and he recorded dozens of successful records in all genres as well as producing several hit albums for Miriam Makeba. He was one of the first artists to start his own label, and in 1968 his tune "Grazing in the Grass" became the first worldwide Afro-pop hit, selling upward of four million copies. In the Seventies he began collaborating with other African artists, including Fela Kuti, father of Afro-beat; South African sax legend Dudu Pukwana; and the highlife band Hedzoleh Soundz. Since the fall of apartheid, he has returned home and is busy collaborating with a new generation of artists, making music that knows no boundaries and draws on jazz, funk, R&B, and South African pop forms such as kwaito — a beat-heavy combination of South African disco, hip-hop, raga, and house. His current touring band will launch a new generation of talented players onto the international stage.

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