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Bra Hugh to be remembered in online festival

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The Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival streams at 8pm and can be viewed at www.skyroomlive.com

Hugh Masekela. Picture:Shelley Kjonstad/ African News Agency (ANA)

REVERED jazz musician Hugh “Bra Hugh“ Masekela’s spirit is alive and online as South Africa’s premiere artists get together for an evening of celebration.

The Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival is scheduled to take place on Sunday evening in the form of a pre-recorded, free-to-access show.

A celebration of the jazz musician and apartheid activist, the festival brings together a top selection of artists including musicians, singers, poets, and dancers.

Mabusha Masekela, festival co-organiser and nephew of the late musician, said it would have been foolish for the event to not have transformed into an online experience.

“There’s a space in which people are definitely missing live music venues and live music is essential, just like breathing air.

“These are the times we find ourselves in and we have to adjust and move forward.”

The event will be hosted by writer and performance poet, Natalia Molebatsi.

Pre-recorded at the Market Theatre in Joburg, the festival marks the sixth time the event has been held, and the second following Masekela’s death in 2018.

“Our theme is very consistent,” Mabusha said.

“The festival was the brainchild of Hugh Masekela and its basic idea is to present South African culture and heritage, as well as the diversity that is throughout this landscape.

“There’s so much of it to share with everyone.”

Hugh Masekela. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad / African News Agency (ANA)

The line-up of artists includes renowned trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni, whose performance will feature an original track titled There will never be another Hugh.

“Bra Hugh was an activist,” Mlangeni explained.

“He spoke his mind and he used music as a vehicle to challenge the status quo.

“That’s the biggest thing we can take from him.

“As artists, we use our collective voice to challenge the status quo and inequalities and injustices in our society.”

Mlangeni also said a lack of performing during the national lockdown had allowed him to refocus his skills and objectives.

“There was a loss of income, but it was an opportunity for me to reconfigure some things such as my playing, and work on things I have ignored in terms of composition and presence to the music and listening more and being aware of my surroundings, working on a vision I have,” he said.

Another artist to feature at the festival is African singer and storyteller Zoë Modiga, who will be performing pieces from her latest album, Inganekwane, released in June.

“The audience can also expect a special cover of one of Bra Hugh’s songs,” Modiga said.

“It’s a surprise.

“I will encourage audiences to tune in and find out.”

Modiga has collaborated with artists such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Johnny Clegg.

Modiga said the transition to an online festival made for challenges in offering a true musical experience.

“The idea of performing has always been about spirit and creating worlds with audiences,” she explained.

“It was a challenge to look into the virtual space and communicate that.

“It was a very beautiful and interesting task as someone who likes to see her audience.

“I do appreciate that virtual experiences open us up to the world, you can watch performances from wherever you are.”

The Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival streams at 8pm and can be viewed at www.skyroomlive.com.