Hugh Masekela Fighting Against Drug and Alcohol Addiction

photo of jazz musican Hugh Masekela

Masekela’s message for ‘addictive’ SA

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.”

Drug-busting Masekela calls a brave new tune

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.

Hugh Masekela Biography

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

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2 thoughts on “Hugh Masekela Fighting Against Drug and Alcohol Addiction

  1. Pingback: Langa: Breaking the silence on drugs in Tanzania

  2. Good day, I am a young girl who has never touched drugs although my heart pains when I see my peers engaged in such activities. I have observed sharply and realized that today’s generation sees no fun in the absence of alcohol and drugs with thus I want to prove them wrong with organising an all day event with all their favorite celebrities in which the event will be alcohol and drug free. Anyone willing to enter the event is out to be tested that they clean or they will not be granted permission to enter. The money made during the event will be donated to those in need of rehab for drug and alcohol abuse so they can be helped. My motivation came from seeing children as young as 10 years turning into drugs from where I come from so I would also like the event to take place there, if this is a success the event could be an annual thing. The organizations help would be highly appreciated. Thank you.

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