We mourn with the rest of South Africa the passing of one of South Africa’s greatest musicians – Hugh Masekela.

The images on this page were shot at the National Arts Festival in 2014 by CuePix chief photographer Harold Gess, who attended Masekela’s concert in a packed Guy Butler Theatre. The trumpeter, who was 75 at the time, was the headliner for the Afro-Jazz portion of the Standard Bank Jazz programme that year. Gess remembers the “enthusiastic crowd lapping up his exuberant performance” that night.

World-renowned flugelhornist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, singer and political voice, Masekela had an international career spanning more than 50 years with more than 40 albums to his name. He worked with artists as diverse as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and the late Miriam Makeba.

All Photos: Harold Gess/CuePix

Foreign correspondent J Brooks Spector wrote a tribute to Masekela in the Daily Maverick. He recounts Masekela’s unforgettable performance at a show at the Market Theatre in 2011:

By now he must have sung, danced and played Stimela uncounted times but in his hands and lips it still had, on stage, the feeling that he had just that night dreamt it up, fresh but outraged – even if his audience most likely knew it all by heart after having heard it for many years.

In 2010, President Zuma honoured Masekela with the highest order in South Africa, the Order of Ikhamanga. In 2011, he received a Lifetime Achievement award at the WOMEX World Music Expo in Copenhagen.


The US Virgin Islands proclaimed ‘Hugh Masekela Day’ in March 2011. Not long after, Masekela joined U2 on stage during the Johannesburg leg of their 360 World Tour, with U2 frontman Bono describing meeting and playing with him as one of the highlights of his career.

In 2012, Masekela toured Europe with Paul Simon on the Graceland 25th Anniversary Tour. He also opened his own studio and record label, House of Masekela.

  “Masekela was so active as a musician – he launched an international tour on his 70th birthday, playing with a backing trio less than half his age, and was booked for shows until just months ago – and as an outspoken campaigner – first against alcohol and drug abuse and more recently raising awareness about the prostate cancer that caused his death,” writes music journalist Evan Milton for the Huffington Post SA.

[So] it is “hard to imagine the trumpet silenced, those lyrics only ever being sung by someone else, and that gravelly, throaty laugh and those mischievous eyes not daring you and challenging the world.”