Hugh Masekela – Thank you for the music

All I want to say is in the title.  The first time I heard you was in the brass section for Miriam Makeba, whose lp had made it´s way into my Norfolk home, a gift from a discerning friend. It played on a Pye black box.  I was so taken by the sound, I learnt your name from the sleeve notes (the good old days). When I caught up again with you it was “Hugh Masekela and the union of south Africa” and “Home is where the Music is”. But in the 80s I was given my chance to hear you live – in the “Bierkeller” in Liverpool, such an unlikely venue (trestles, beer and heavy metal) that I couldn´t believe it could be true. I went along, wearing a ZANU Tshirt and danced exuberantly at the back of the venue (as is/was my wont).

Some weeks later you played at a fundraiser for the ANC in Crystal Palace Bowl. I remember realising with a start that it was the first time I´d ever been frisked by black security staff, the inside out of South African experience.  It was a very hot day – there were long delays, all Gil Scott Heron´s band held at the airport, a rogue roadie testing the drums for ever – and when you and the band came on, the audience had been lulled into total passivity.  Just lying on the grass. I was up dancing again – again in the ZANU Tshirt that I was wearing as a badge of honour, and my friend said, “hey Rose, it looks like they´re talking about you”: Hugh Masekela and another musician were talking and pointing in my direction. “I was the only one dancing in Liverpool, too!” I said, and she laughed so much she fell on her back.

Tonight, the wind is sighing in the trees, outside the same house where I first heard you on record. Your golden sound is out there, circling the universe.

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