THOUGH many call him Bra Hugh, ubab’ uMasekela is now an old jazz cat though still as fiery as ever. Besides getting a gift of a saxophone from iconic jazz saxophonist and singer, the late Louis Armstrong, Masekela is a walking history of South African music.

His protest art (anti-apartheid activism in exile), marriage and working relationship to the late Miriam Makeba as well as our own Dorothy Masuka are the stuff of musical legend. Under his belt, Masekela has over 40 albums.

His first number-one smash hit Grazing in the Grass came in 1968 and sold a stupendous four million copies even by today’s standards. Now in his late seventies, fifty something years down the line, Masekela is still touring and recording music.

He is in Harare, currently to record a song with Tuku for his Abi’angu II (duets). Tuku has always had a love for South African music dating back to the days when South African music producer West Nkosi then employed by Gallo Records produced him in the seventies and Ray Phiri played guitar on Tuku’s recordings back then!

In an interview I did with the S’timela front man last year, I began to understand why Tuku’s music has a distinct s’manjemanje and mbaqanga rhythm. But how many times do they talk about it?

Birthday boy
Masekela has also come courtesy of the Harare Jazz Festival for a belated 75th birthday celebration after having turned 75 in April. How lucky Bra Hugh Masekela is to be still in demand at that age and still be relevant today.

Here is an example of longevity which I do not believe the current dancehall chanters will have at that age! I suppose even drawing a comparison with the esteemed legend is an act of unthinkable impertinence!

Masekela has been to the country a couple of times before and thrilled music fans with his legendary trumpet sound. He must have good lung to still be able to pull off blowing hard into that instrument. Long live Bra Hugh.

A time to reflect: Book Café founder fighting for his life
When a project is embarked upon and begins to thrive, one has to wonder what the motivation of the persons behind it is. Though today he is ailing and fighting for his life, his legacy and contribution to Zimbabwean arts and culture is solid.

Pamberi Trust-run Book Café is Paul Brickhill’s brain child. Brickhill is a near equivalent to Bulawayo’s Cont Mhlanga in terms of his contribution to the cultural life of Harare.

At the dawn of our independence, Brickhill set up Grassroots Books in 1981. According to some reports, Brickhill had been a member of the Zapu military wing (Zipra) during our country’s freedom struggle against the Rhodesian government! He worked later as a spy for the liberation movement in the United Kingdom.

I remember him as part of a ’90s Harare jazz band called Luck Street Blues. This was around the time when musical giants such as Rusike Brothers, Penny Yon, Brian Paul and Mike Lannas were doing the Harare gig circuit of the time.

It is therefore clear to my mind that here is a man who has paid his dues

A genuine arts hero
Upon a visit to Harare earlier in the year I did get a chance to visit one of the meccas of Zimbabwean arts the Book Café on one of their Open Mic Monday events.

I got a chance to see musician wannabes take to stage and try their hand at the fame game singing away. I had to leave while the night was young because the queen was now choking on the “fumes” in the venue.

The Book Café space was purpose built to accommodate artistes: Aspiring and otherwise. Many local artistes, living and deceased owe him a huge debt for the space he created and that continues to provide a vital pedestal for aspiring artists without discrimination.

The likes of the late Andy Brown, Chioniso Maraire, current hitman Jah Prayzah have graced the Book Café stage. Countless arts events and concerts have been held in the venue and many artists have had their start in the premise.

I invite Culture Beat followers to offer up prayers for Brickhill and his family. The reported throat cancer he is suffering from is really and truly an ogre straight from hell . . .

Delani Makhalima selected for the judging panel of All-Africa Music Awards
Delani Makhalima, currently ZiFM’s head of production, but a former Radio Metro (South Africa) broadcaster, music producer, songwriter and pioneer of the Zimbabwean urban grooves movement of the 2000s has been selected to be one of the judges who will judge African talent when the awards take place later in the year.

He is currently in Nigeria attending the workshop to prepare for the event in Lagos. It’s a credit to Makhalima whose productions as Step Aside captured the imagination of Power FM-driven youth sub-culture of the time churning out hits for the likes of Plaxedes Wenyika, Roy n Royce, Sani Makhalima and others back in the day.

Starting off as a producer under Willom Tight’s current manager Gilbert Muvavarirwa’s Shamiso Records, Delani later left to set up Galaxy Records and literally delivered a litany of stars onto the music market.

EX Q and Roki come to mind. Delani’s selection makes sense to me because few are as well placed as he is to judge on what’s hot in popular music. The pedigree is there and the record clear.

The beauty chronicles: The saga continues
The newly-minted queen has suddenly “abdicated” her Miss Zimbabwe 2014 throne. The reasons that has been offered range from salacious allegations about leaked nude photos by a now-dumped boyfriend.

A radio announcer from ZiFM was chirping away about what he called revenge porn wherein a lover leaks “private” pictures.

Thus Thabiso Phiri in a tear-filled ceremony stepped down from her throne “to protect the Miss Zimbabwe reputation ahead of the Miss World Pageant”. She would not elaborate on her reasons thereby fanning further public speculations. Personally, I have warned young girls to refrain from these gigs.

Alas, another one has assumed the deserted throne. Catherine Makaya is the new Miss Zimbabwe 2014 after a fresh panel of judges including Information, Media and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Supa Mandiwanzira, Adam Molai, Cristina Grabowski, Vivek Solanki and Tinashe Tanyanyiwa crowned her.

I imagine the first princess Tendai Hunda is smarting from the whole thing. She may have ogled that “crown” when her “queen” was stepping down. It was not to be. Pageants!

But a question must be asked, what except for the crown, did Miss Phiri actually have to give up? As for the boyfriend, how wretched can a brother be to do that to his beloved if indeed he did leak private pictures?

Overall, despite the meida hoopla around Miss Zimbabwe, the world did not stop to revolve over the tawdry little affair. South Africa was rocked by an earthquake and one person sadly died. Seismologists believe that it can happen again soon and we pray it doesn’t. Now that is a crisis!

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