Hugh Masekela, South African musician, is born

Hugh Masekela Image source

Tuesday, 4 April 1939

On 4 April 1939 Hugh Ramopolo Masekela, South African musician, was born in Witbank, South Africa. Masekela grew up playing the piano and at a young age was introduced to the trumpet by Father Trevor Huddleston.

Masekela mastered the trumpet and went on to play in South Africa's first youth orchestra, the Huddleston Jazz Band. Masekela later collaborated with many famous artists and played in the orchestra for the successful South African Broadway style hit, King Kong.

In 1961 Masekela went into exile after the political unrest surrounding the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre. Masekela studied at London's Guildhall School, then the Manhattan School of Music. In New York he befriended Harry Belafonte, who helped him to settle in the United States as a student.

While in New York, Masekela composed and recorded many new songs; including his 1968 number one hit "Grazing in the Grass", which won him a Grammy for "Best Contemporary Pop Performance - Instrumental" that same year.

Masekela returned to South Africa in the early 1990s and continues to produce music and perform extensive tours around the world. Today, Masekela remains one of South Africa's most celebrated musicians, along with Abdullah Ibrahim and Miriam Makeba (who he was married at one time).

• The African music encylopedia,"Hugh Masekela"From: The African music encylopedia,available at:,[Accessed at: 03 April 2014]
• Laphil,"Hugh Masekela"From: Laphil,available at:,[Accessed at: 03 April 2014]

Last updated : 28-Mar-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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