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Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela

Joel Roberts By

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Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela

By Hugh Masekela and Michael Cheers

Crown Publishers
2004

Subtitled the "The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela," this powerful autobiography of the veteran jazz/ world music trumpeter is much, much more: it's the story of a man's—and a nation's—journey through tragedy, turmoil and tyranny to freedom. Set against the background of South Africa's epic struggle, it's also a highly compelling tale of a life lived to excess, fueled by love and sex and drugs and, always, music.

Masekela and co-author Michael Cheers paint an especially moving portrait of Masekela's childhood in South Africa, where, beneath the ominous shadow of racism, he enjoyed a life rich in the joys of family and ever-present music. For those unfamiliar with South African music, the authors offer an overview of this remarkable tradition, pointing out the strong cross-cultural influence of American jazz.

A pioneer in bringing South African music to the rest of the world, Masekela is a truly international artist, whose peripatetic lifestyle found him in the middle of some of the most important musical and cultural movements of the last 40 years. After fleeing South Africa in 1961, he hung out in New York with jazz icons like Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and Miles Davis; recorded on some of Bob Marley's early reggae sessions in Jamaica; appeared at the first, fabled Monterrey Pop Festival in California; befriended Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone in the heady Flower Power years; and took part in Fela Kuti's explosive Afropop scene in Lagos. He was later a driving force behind the musical "Sarafina" and Paul Simon's Graceland tour, both of which brought South Africa's music and its struggle to wider attention in the West. He finally returned home to South Africa after thirty years in exile following the defeat of apartheid in 1991.

Told with candor, humor and a still burning rage against his oppressors, Masekela's one-of-a-kind story is ultimately the story of all South Africa, one of faith, perseverance, almost unimaginable loss, and, eventually, against all odds, victory.

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