Legendary South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela has died at the age of 78 after a decade-long fight with cancer, according to a statement from his family on Tuesday (Jan. 23). Often called the “Father of South African jazz,” Masekela died in Johannesburg after what his family said was a “protracted and courageous battle with prostate cancer.”
Trumpeter, singer and composer Masekela, affectionately known locally as “Bra Hugh,” started playing the horn at 14 and quickly became an integral part of the 1950s jazz scene in Johannesburg as a member of the Jazz Epistles.
In the 1960s he went into exile in the United Kingdom and the United States, where he collaborated with American jazz legend Harry Belafonte and used his music to spread awareness about the oppressive system of white-minority rule in South Africa. He also scored an international number one hit in 1968 with “Grazing In The Grass.”