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Hugh Masekela

Opening night at Snape Proms and the hall was pretty full.

The Hugh Masekela band came onto the stage and began warming up, shortly joined by Hugh Masekela himself. We were then treated to an hour and a half of African-jazz music with unconventional twists that only Hugh himself can add.

Hugh was amazing to watch, completely engaging and made a real show of the event. Between numbers he regaled the audience with tales and anecdotes. He had done is homework on Snape and the surrounding area and complimented the audience, got them to their feet on more than one occasion to ‘shake their booties and loosen things up a bit.’

The band comprised keyboards, bass, bongos and percussion, drums and guitar and Hugh interspersed numbers with solos on flugelhorn which were at times raucous and at other times so sweet and emotional the audience could not help but be carried along by the music. Hugh danced, played the cow horn to accompany other solos and generally made an entertaining night of it.

Hugh Masekela is not your conventional jazz musician. He and his band bring something so musical, so rhythmic to a performance that the time seemed to pass in an instant. His most memorable hit ‘Grazing in the Grass’ was played brilliantly and Mandela (Bring Him Home) was received by the audience with enthusiasm but the performance included many other numbers, played and sang with energy and dexterity. At one point the band slowly abandoned their instruments to take up various seated positions around the stage and the keyboard player treated the audience to a beautiful solo.

Hugh had tales aplenty, including how he was brought up by penguins in Cape Town (after falling in the river in Newcastle, UK, being carried down the river, across the seas and to South Africa, which he assured us was a true story). He also injected some poignancy regarding trains delivering people from all over Africa to work in virtual enslavement in the mines of Johannesburg. He clearly loves his homeland and his music and delivers the latter with enthusiasm and a complete respect for his audience. Add to this the setting in the beautiful concert hall at Snape and the evening was almost perfect.

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