By John Matinde
When one has had a long and illustrious life like Bhudhi Hugh Masekela, it is very difficult to put together a conclusive obituary about him. That is best left to others more qualified to do so, who have been closer to him in his everyday life.
I for one became a fan of Bhudhi Hugh Masekela, when his hit song Skokiaan alongside Herb Alpert, broke onto the American Billboard Hot 100. This was when I was at boarding secondary school, and I was an avid follower of pop culture and charts.
Roll on a couple of years later, and now on radio, I was now in a position to actually play his songs on radio, and not too long after personally met him in the late 70’s. We got on famously, as he did with my compatriots Mike Mhundwa, Hilton Mambo, Wellington Mbofana, Webster Shamu, Patrick Bajilla, Joy Khoza, Ephraim Chamba, Joshua Makawa, Ray Chirisa, Peter Jones and others.
During his self-imposed exile from SA during the apartheid years, we spent may periods living with him side by side in Harare, as our production-house was a stones throw away, from a common pals “watering hole”, on Union Avenue, Harare, (owned by Job Kadengu), before as my foggy memory recalls, being relocated to Job’s Nite Spot (of Lovemore Majaivana’s and the Job’s Combination fame near the bus terminus (Kingsway).
Hugh and band always performed variously at the old venue, and whenever they were up for popular shows that needed radio or tv coverage, I was their point man. In fact we worked together on various shows, and just to name one, on the Paul Simon’s Graceland Tour with Ray Phiri and Sithimela, Dorothy Masuku, Miriam Makeba, Thomas Mapfumo, Oliver Mtukudzi and several others I may forget to include.
Many years later when we’d both emigrated, we kept in touch, as I recall one busy London Oxford Street day when Brother Hugh shouted my name across (to the bemusement of stony faced Londoners) and I had to cross over and have a good chat!!
A couple of years later, I was also to be one of his specially invited guests when he was performing At the Barbican Centre in the West End. Hugh used to introduce and showcase up and coming Jazz talent on various workshops. On this particular one, he introduced a young Black Saxophonist from the UK and asked him his name: Finch, he replied. What’s your full name, Hugh asked him: Soweto Finch! Whereaupon Hugh turned to the audience and said he’d like to introduce a very promising new talent, in fact he is so big his mum and dad have called him a whole townships: I give you Soweto Finch!!!
My abiding memory of him is how humbled when he personally acknowledged me from the stage as I was seating in the front seats and then meet him for the last time during break!
Sadly, that was the last live concert I was to watch by Bhudi Hugh. Now he lives loud and proud on my iPod….and long may he continue to do so!
Bayethe Bhudi Hugh! Uyinkosi!!! Go well, mfowethu‼✊🏾✊🏾🙏🏾
John Matinde is a legendary Zimbabwean Radio and Television personality who now lives in London