One of the biggest names in world music – trumpeter Hugh Masekela – has said the message behind his latest album Time is to help the fight against drug and alcohol addiction in his native South Africa.
Masekela himself is a recovering addict, having gone into rehabilitation six years ago before establishing an organisation to help those with similar problems in his homeland. And he told BBC World Service’s The Ticket programme that he felt a duty to help others suffering from the same problems.
“I myself am a recovering addict and alcoholic. Six years ago I came to England, took up counselling, and learned the psychology of addiction.”
The project, called the Musicians and Artists Assistance Programme of South Africa (Maapsa), is a partnership between several South African celebrities, including musicians Jabu Khanyile and Family Factory, actress Connie Masilo and talkshow host Felicia Mabuza-Suttle. Masekela said: “This organisation will make South Africans aware that addiction is a dynamite powder-keg. In South Africa, people are often praised for being able to drink a lot. They think drinking is something to be proud of.”
Victor Ntoni, another respected musician, said alcohol and substance abuse among musicians was exacerbated by the increasing exploitation of artists in South Africa.
Mabuza-Suttle, one of the trustees of Maapsa, said that because she came from a background of alcoholism, she knew about the devastating effects of addiction on families.
As the brutality of the Apartheid state increased, Hugh finally left the country with the help of Trevor Huddleston and his friends Yehudi Menuhin and Johnny Dankworth who got him admitted into London’s Guildhall School of music. Miriam Makeba who was already enjoying major success in the USA later helped him with Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillepsie and John Mehegan to get admission to the Manhattan school of Music in New York. Hugh finally met Louis Armstrong who had sent the Huddleston Band a trumpet after Huddleston told the trumpet king about the bank he helped start back in South Africa before deportation.
With immense help from Makeba and Belafonte, Hugh eventually began to record, gaining his first breakthrough with “The Americanization of Ooga-Booga” produced by the late Tom Wilson who had been producer of Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel’s debut successes. Stewart Levine his business partner in Chissa Records went on to produce hit records for Hugh on Uni Records, beginning with “Alive and Well at the Whisky” in 1967 and then “”Promise of A Future” which contained the gigantic hit song “Grazing in the Grass” in 1968.
By the beginning of the 1970’s he had attained international fame, selling out all of America’s festivals, auditoriums and top nightclubs. Heeding the call of his African roots, he moved to Guinea, then Liberia and Ghana after recording the historical “ Home is where Music is” with Dudu Pokwana.
photo from Ritmo Artists