Hugh Masekela in pensive mood with his famous trumpet in hand. Photo: Supplied

Remember the Rastaman with the guitar, Bra Hugh?


Johnny Masilela   l   Views: 151

Forgive us word artists for stumbling over each other to pay tribute to music legend, Hugh Masekela.

For my part I met Bra Hugh only once, during a chanced lunch at Gramadoelas Restaurant on The Market Theatre precinct at Newtown, Johannesburg.

There he was, the greatest of wind instrumentalists, fork and knife in hand, having a hearty lunch, as I entered the place from a meeting of the National Arts Council, for which I was a board member.

Nervously I went to Bra Hugh’s table, to introduce myself.

The man was first visibly annoyed, but later agreed for a tete-a-tete.

Rewind back to the Bophuthtswana capital of Mmabatho, whereby I was the news editor at The Mail newspaper, when a Rastaman with a guitar hanging from his shoulders, arrived at our offices.

The man with the guitar said he had just arrived from the Botswasna capital of Gaborone, where he was recording with Hugh Masekela.

The name of the album was sensational indeed … “Standing on the mine dumps; Jobug City”.

One track whose name fired my imagination was called “Picking up the pieces in Lobatse”, which the man with the guitar said was a potpourri of sounds borrowed from the Bangwato of Seretse Khama, the Khoi, Griqua and Nama tribespeople.

We drove the man to a hillock outside Mafikeng, improvising on a picture of him “standing on the mine dumps”.

Years later, when I met Bra Hugh at The Market Theatre, and mentioned the amazing Rastaman, Bra Hugh frowned, and again looked annoyed.

Lo and behold, for it was to my utter shock, that I learned from the Struggle underground, that the Rastaman was a suspected agent of the Apartheid-era Security Branch!

18 months ago       26 January 2018