Ethiopia Ghana South Africa

Nana Pays Tribute To Hugh Masakela

President Akufo-Addo with the son of the late Hugh Masakela

President Akufo-Addo joined the family of the late African jazz musician, Hugh Masakela, in Johannesburg to mourn him during his funeral in the South African capital.

He stopped over at the South African capital to show his last respect to a renowned musician who lived and played his trumpet and other wind instruments in Accra for a long time, and with whom he struck an acquaintance for the past 50 years – being a music lover himself.

President Akufo-Addo flew to Johannesburg from Addis Ababa where he attended the recent AU Summit in the Ethiopian capital. His reference to the legendary musician’s Barbara in notes he scribbled about his friend underscored the level of acquaintance he struck with the man who doubled also as anti-apartheid activist.

The musician, he said in a touching tribute, “is gone and away with that energy, that vitality, all that zest for life.

Masakela is gone, Masakela is no more. All that energy, all that vitality, all that zest for life, (what the French call joie de vivre), all that infectious sense of humour, all that loud laughter, all that love of beauty in all its forms, all that passion and belief in a higher destiny for mankind, especially for the African people, all that charisma – they have all been extinguished. That is the way of mortal man. We each have our beginning; we each have our ending. It is what you do in between, that matters.”

President Akufo-Addo recalled the heyday of disco in Accra when Keteke Bar used to be hotbed of night time music sessions. That was the time the two became friends.

“Hugh Masakela was already a legend,” President Akufo-Addo said and mentioned some of his works as “King Kong” and “Grazing In The Grass.”

He recalled the past days with nostalgia, “Simple, straightforward, he exuded fun and warmth. Many drinks later, we became firm friends, and looked out for and saw each other at various clubs across the world – New York, London, Paris, Lagos, Abidjan, Lome – wherever we were together, we would meet and party. Nobody partied like Masakela.”

Continuing with what is an interesting tribute, blended with history, the president said, “From the beginning, that is what I called him – Masakela – and he called me Nana. It never changed. For some reason, I could never come to terms with Hugh or Bra Hugh. He was Masakela, unique and compelling.”

Hugh Masakela lived in Ghana as an exile from South Africa, having fought the apartheid system with Nelson Mandela.

Touching on the days of the musician and the grace with which he lived here, the president said, “He bore his exile with dignity. He never lost his belief that the inhuman system of apartheid would be dismantled, and that South Africa would, one day, be free.”

When apartheid was dismantled eventually and Hugh Masakela returned to South Africa, Nana visited him at home during which he had the opportunity of seeing the musician’s recording studio in Downtown Johannesburg where he recorded in the old days with Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), and the others.

The late musician’s love of Ghana, President Akufo-Addo pointed out, was such that he became a Ghanaian and member of his family. “My wife Rebecca, my sister Mamaa, her daughter Khadija, my brother Bumpty, his wife Irene, our mutual friend Sabah Bedwei Majdoub, Joe Ampah, his widow Rosalind, and the talented Accra musicians – Francis Fuster, The Todd brothers, Frankie and Stanley Todd, Sol Amarfio, the late Faisal Helwani, the outstanding Ghanaian music producer – we were all his family, to whom he remained faithful to the end,” President Akufo-Addo added.

By A.R. Gomda