Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hugh Masekela

Tonight we had church. People were in the aisles, waving figurative handkerchiefs, rocking and swaying to the South African band. Baba Hugh was on fire...the pot on boil, simmer and then high. It was a terrific journey--all the band stateside except Fana Zulu who still resides in South Africa. I hear, Masekela's wife is Ghanaian and that he spends a lot of time in her homeland.

Playing many of his top hits, like Stimila and the OJ anthem about "uniting Africa," plus shake your tail feather tunes, the audience found it hard to sit through, a few dancing near the register and along the walls, it was the kind of concert one recalls with a smile on days that aren't so blue.

When the show was nearing its end, folks seemed happy to have an opportunity to stand and sing. Masekela ended with Bring Back Nelson Mandela, his anthem. I think he always ends with this tribute to the old gizzards who fought the good fight for liberty and justice for their people.

After the set, the band mingled with the audience, signing autographs and talking in the lobby. People bought the double CD and got it autographed. I took photos of the band members, mostly of Hugh Masekela with his admirers. I recalled seeing the band, different configuration, at UC Berkeley earlier this year, or maybe last year with guest artists, two singers, a man and a woman, and could they blow. Oh my goodness!

Then last summer, we were at Stern Grove, Goapele opened for Masekela, she was still pregnant--yes, she was. At the Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival she wasn't anymore. Okay, so anyway, Masekela was phenomenal as usual.

One always knows what to expect, greatness...fine musicianship, history. So anyway, the pianist, who was great, had just joined the band, five days prior. His name is Rashid Lanie. Morris and Hugh had known each other since 1957, when they were 17 and 19. Baba Hugh said Morris always knew where the cool spots were to play, and they'd play in the same bands at a time in South Africa when whites and blacks were not supposed to perform together.

They are still performing together.

Morris was phenomenal on penny whistles, saxes, percussion, so was Fana Zulu on bass, such a cool instrument. I don't know if the cool instrument makes whoever touches it cool, or that only cool people play such. I'll get back to you on this after I begin my lessons and see if the cool transfers.

Ian Herman was on drums. I'd met Ian last year also at Stern Grove. It was his first tour with the band when I met him then. Now, he's a seasoned veteran. I was sitting next to Ise Lyfe, who was celebrating the release of his latest CD. Sister Ayanna was in the audience too, so was Greg and Dafina, Angela Wellman and Nii Armah. I'd just been looking at photos from last year when we were at the Grove and Greg told us that Ayanna's sons had been shot, and one killed. It will be a year August 4, Monday.

I remember the funeral. So sad, so unnecessary. Such a waste. Baba Hugh sent out a prayer for the senseless killing and waste of innocent life worldwide. He told us to send out a prayer when we are in those still moments--what Alice Walker calls: the pause.

I'd gone out to walk the Lake at 8:30 p.m. while it was still light. My legs were talking to me and I had to answer. I missed seeing the brother at EastSide, perhaps some other time. So as I rounded the Lake to my car, it was 10:00 p.m. and the show had started. I had to run by Walgreen's first and buy batteries for my camera. When I arrived at 10:15 p.m. the place was packed, but there was room for me. I just wanted to explain the casual clothing.


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