Hugh Masekela – Barbican (Live Review)

The ageing lion of South African jazz flugelhorn showed he still has all his own teeth as he scatted, sang, danced, joked, chided, mimed, agitated, funked, impersonated and swung through the night


He may have portioned his horn playing out carefully and avoided high notes in his singing but this only seemed to create more space for his ebullient personality to fill. He managed to talk seriously about the pass laws in South Africa while making wise cracks that were genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.
The evening was in many ways a celebration of the end of apartheid, a celebration that Masekela must have presided over a thousand times in the past 15 years and would be perfectly entitled to celebrate for another 15.
Hardship and injustice are of course the rule rather than the exception for most of humanity. Like a poet he declaimed against the modern day slavery imposed on those — especially in Africa — who work in the mines and the sweatshops before launching into a poignant piece of ensemble jazz punctuated by the sounds of a train carrying the migrant worker away from his family. The effect was powerful and moving.
On a more comical note, he pranced about and gently chided the vanity of some African women in Fela Kuti’s ‘Lady’. ‘She go say, “I be lady-o!”‘
The evening ended with a rapturous double encore of ‘Bring Back Nelson Mandela’ and an ode to a hugely fat but beautiful woman. He insisted his fellow South Africans would kill him if he didn’t oblige with the latter and everyone present was waiting eagerly for the former.
Polished, provocative and life-affirming.
See photos of the night on our sister site Flykr

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2 thoughts on “Hugh Masekela – Barbican (Live Review)

  1. I was in the audience at the packed house at The Barbican Centre when Hugh Masekela came to perform.
    It was my fist time to go to one of his concerts. I did not know what to do whether to shout, scream, pull my hair, throw myself on stage or what.
    In my lonely corner I heard him say that do not worry a thing child we are still here they did not finish us.
    I do not know what my silent tears said to him. When the concert was ended and we walked out in the night. I thought I saw a star smilling brightly just as in the times of our Ancestors.
    Thankyou Baba Hugh Masekela.
    Odon Winkel.

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  2. I arrived at Chelmsford Station to find there was an incident on the line and at least a 2hr delay. Whether to go, or give up? I rushed back to get my car and drove 20 miles to get on the tube. My effort was rewarded 10 fold, although I missed the first 15 minutes.
    A glorious sound I hadn’t heard before and as joyous as the Mother Africa concert. The train song was incredible with the LSO adding to the mind pictures of the train with it’s miners. The St. Luke’s Choir also in good voice. I am 63, and my neighbour was older but we danced our way through the encore of Free Nelson Mandela and went our separate ways enriched by the experience. Look out for the BBC 4 recording as this was a really special evening which cannot but uplift your spirit even if you weren’t there!

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