Hugh Masekela. Picture: SUNDAY WORLD
Hugh Masekela. Picture: SUNDAY WORLD

From the moment anti-apartheid activist Trevor Huddleston handed a 14-year-old Hugh Masekela his first trumpet, it was evident he was destined for the big time. Over the next six decades Masekela jammed with all the international musical gods; he hung with them; hell, he even married one of them — Miriam Makeba, in 1964.

But he was a man who would just as easily stop and have a chat with a fan in an airport. He was smart and funny, could weave a gripping yarn and was generous with his abundant talent and time.

This week, at the age of 78, Masekela died. His is a name renowned across the globe not just for songs like Bring Him Back Home and Soweto Blues, but as a symbol of SA’s potential, even in its darkest hours. Millions will attest to the fact it was impossible to experience a live performance by Bra Hugh without being mesmerised.

Masekela cared deeply about his country. His friend, Design Indaba founder Ravi Naidoo, says that in a discussion a few months back, it seemed Masekela was dejected that SA had lost its way. "With the wit and penetration of a copywriter he said: ‘The slogan for our beautiful country now: SA, we were nearly great.’"

He would surely have approved of the political winds of change now sweeping the country.