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Hugh Masekela reveals his Zimbabwean roots

by Jonathan Mbiriyamveka
17 Sep 2014 at 07:52hrs | Views

SOUTH Africa music legend Hugh "Bra Hugh" Masekela has revealed his Zimbabwean origins indicating that his grandfather travelled to South Africa a long time ago.

Speaking on Star FM's popular Breakfast Show hosted by Comfort Mbofana yesterday, Masekela said he was originally from Zimbabwe and a Karanga.

"I was born in Witbank but my great grandfather came from greater Zimbabwe. Our real surname is Munyepawu, we are Karangas. We were adopted by the Batogwas numeric people in the Limpopo Province in the mid 19th century.

"My great grandfather was a Lutheran evangelist so he came with some German missionaries to convert the Tsongas, Ndebeles and Vendas.

"The Munyepawu were chief agriculturists at the time and we had to look for fertile land (which) is masekela. That is how we became Masekela. So coming to Zimbabwe is like (coming to my) spiritual home. That is why I'm always here," Masekela explained.

Asked what he learnt in his music career spanning over 50 albums, Bra Hugh said Africans should be proud of their heritage.
"I think the thing that has made me get recognition internationally is because I'm a child of heritage. I dip from the heritage pond and if you look at any African artiste who is known internationally…whether it's Salif Keita, Angelique Kidjo, Miriam Makeba, Oliver Mtukudzi, Lady Smith Black Mambazo, or Mori Kante, ..they are all known because they come from a traditional background… because they are themselves," he said.

Bra Hugh, however, emphasised the need to preserve the African heritage so that other cultures can learn from it. He said he feared the African heritage would be long forgotten by future generations such that Africans would lose their identity.

"I fear for my grandchildren that when asked a few decades from now who they are, they are probably going to say we used to be Africans long ago and it sounds like a joke.

"It's a reality and there is no society that has more amazing content and diverse content than the African society internationally but we shun it," he said.

Bra Hugh has been in Harare for the past week where he among other things recorded with a new female mbira group yet to be named. He also visited the burial site of one of his old friends Dumisani Maraire.

Brah Hugh first met Maraire in the 1970s in the United States where the late mbira guru performed and taught music at Washington State University and Olympia close to Los Angeles where Bra Hugh lived.

The two became bosom buddies such that Dumi would slaughter a goat for Bra Hugh whenever he visited before they play mbira music.

Bra Hugh also said that he was working towards establishing an international trust that would be open to all those who want to preserve the African heritage. He, however, vowed not to collaborate with hip-hop artistes saying he wanted to preserve his own identity.

Source - Chronicle