Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Legendary musician still has it

Hugh Masekela. Photo / Supplied
Hugh Masekela. Photo / Supplied

As the near-soldout crowd waited in anticipation, the lighting and subtle smoke effects made it appear as if there was a blue cloud gently hovering above the stage.

But instead of bringing a rain shower, it brought legendary South African musician Hugh Masekela and his five-piece band to the stage, ready to fill the hall with the joys and sorrows of South Africa's past, in a 100-minute set that ranged through his nearly 50-year career as an acclaimed trumpeter, flugelhornist, vocalist, songwriter, and exuberant front man.

The 73-year-old was in wonderful form, shimmying effortlessly about the stage, getting down with his very talented guitarist, and coaxing the audience from their seats to whooping and dancing in the aisles, his resonant baritone still capable of impressive falsetto heights.

Masekela was more front man than virtuosic horn player, but he did turn in some lovely phrases and solos on the flugelhorn, particularly in Chileshe.

A highlight for many would have been Stimela/Coal Train, with Masekela telling the tragic story of the young men who work in the mines, but equally entertaining were the percussive vocals of Lady, with its hilarious interpretations of African women, and the lively chanting of Khawuleza, presented with a narrative about Masekela's grandparents, who ran a sort of speakeasy business when alcohol was forbidden, and khawuleza was the call cried out to warn of police.

By the encore, the entire crowd, a wonderfully multicultural mix ranging from teens to 80-year-olds, were smiling and forming trains as they danced, a lovely picture of the peace and harmony that Masekela spent decades working for.


Who: Hugh Masekela
Where: Auckland Town Hall
When: Thursday

- NZ Herald

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