It is hard to find the words with which to bid my friend Hugh Masekela farewell: so long and rich was his life; and so inspiring his example.
Though born in a South Africa still under the sway of White supremacy, his talent quickly distinguished him. His music then was the music of a free Africa: full of anger at injustice; confident that one day these injustices would be overcome.
The colonial order grew ever more violent, oppressive and irrational. In 1960, it forced him into exile, where he would remain for three decades. In these years, he came into his own: he sold records across the world, introducing new audiences to his, and Africa’s, sound; his style matured; and he became the virtuoso he would remain.
He never forgot his obligations to Africa either: he mentored African musicians, and remained as creative in his blending of Jazz and African sounds in his old age as he had been in his youth. His songs, it is fair to say, were the sound of freedom, not just for South Africa, but for Africa too.
I had the privilege of counting him as a friend. I often met him, here in Nairobi, or in South Africa. He was as energetic, as full of life, and as optimistic as ever, so it is a terrible surprise to hear that he has left us. I give thanks for his life, for his music, and for who he was: a man of courage and joy; a proud African; and the voice of Africa’s liberation. May God rest his soul in peace; and may he grant all who knew and loved him the courage to bear this loss.
May Hugh Masekela rest in perpetual light.
Uhuru Kenyatta, C.G.H.,
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA
23rd January 2018