• Cream of The Crate: CD #7 - Hugh Masekela (African Breeze)

      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      "Hugh Masekela's music was black as night." [Eric Burden - Monterey]

      CD Cover

      This is
      number seven in the series of albums I'm featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of CD's in my personal collection. The series is called, "Cream of The Crate (CD's)", and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value,
      either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.

      I have moved away from boxed sets this week (mind you, there are many more to come subsequent reviews) and chosen a man with whom I have had a music collection many, many years.

      The CD features Hugh Masekela and is titled
      "African Breeze: 80's Masekela". It is a single CD and was released in 1996 on the Emporio Label (EMPRCD656). It has 12 tracks that represent the best of Hugh Masekela's music from the 1980's. This was an incredibly productive period for Masekela.

      Hugh Masekela was born in Johannesburg in 1939 and he left school in the mid 1950's to form his own group, the Merry Makers. Heavily influenced by the traditional jazz music of the late 1940's, his first recording was with the very first black South African album ever recorded, under the group name the Jazz Epistles, also featuring the well known South African musician "Dollar Brand".

      Hugh Masekela - 1959

      Following the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, where 69 peacefully protesting Africans were shot dead, Apartheid laws became even more intolerable and Masekela headed for the USA with the assistance of international friends and celebrates, Yehudi Menuhin and John Dankworth.

      Sometime in the 1960's

      Once in the USA he formed his own band and married South African songbird, Miriam Makeba. In 1967 he had a hit with Up, Up and Away, and one year later a big number one smash hit with Grazing in the Grass, which was nominated for a Grammy Award and sold 4 million copies.

      He made many guest appearances with bands and artists such as The Birds ("So You want To Be A Rock & Roll Star") and Paul Simon ("Further To Fly").

      Throughout the 1960's and 1970's the Masekela musical journey included a spell with Motown, some dabbling with more lightweight jazz mood music, played with Fela Kuti's band and recorded with Afro-funk practitioners, Hedzolleh Sounds.

      In the early 1980's he settled back in the African continent, living in Botswana. He signed with "Jive Records" and recorded the extraordinary album, "Techno-bush" (which I will feature in a future Cream of The Crate vinyl retro-review) as well as the very good "Waiting In The Rain" album.

      In all he has released 43 albums between 1963 and 2012, and that's a great feat by any measure

      So we come to this album, "African Breeze".

      Track Listing

      1. Don't Go Lose It Baby (Stretch Mix) - 1984 (7:35)
      2. Motla Le Pula (The Rainmaker) - 1984 (5:38)
      3. African Breeze - 1985 (5:55)
      The Seven Riffs of Africa (Medley) - 1984 (12:29)
      4a. The Lion Never Sleeps
      4b. Isikhokhiyana
      4c. Grazing In The Grass
      5. The Joke Of Life (Brinca De Vivre) (3:46)
      6. Lady (6:35)
      7. U - Dwi (3:23)
      8. Coal Train (Live Version) (7:40)
      9. Zulu Wedding (4:33)
      10. Run No More (A Vuo Mo) (5:07)
      11. Tonight (4:45)
      12. Don't Go Lose It Baby (Dub Mix) (4:39)

      It comes as no surprise that Masekela still has a cult following and even at his age of 74 can still cause South African women to scream at his every move. He has been considered as the master of the flugelhorn for so many years, people have simply stopped counting, and his music has a consistency about it that puts him in a very rare class of musicians indeed.

      Playing the Flugelhorn

      As I wrote at the beginning of this retro-review, all the tracks on this album came from the incredibly productive 1980's, and it brings together the cream of his Jive Sessions, and it mixes full blown African pop with some very reflective messages.

      The cream of the tracks on this album is, "Don't Go Loose It Babe. The album has two versions, the 'stretch mix' and the 'Dub mix'. I prefer the stretched mix and that is featured below. However, the very, very best version is that which is actually found on the "Techno-Bush" (1984) album.

      This is a really hot dance club track, possibly the best dance track released in 1984, and it was heard blaring from all the hippest clubs throughout Europe, the USA and Africa. It has a rock solid beat, the lyrics are catchy, very simple in some ways, but incredibly catchy. I have reprinted a few verses below - but there are many more in this song. Finally, Hugh Masekela blows what can best be described as a scorching hot trumpet.

      Don't go

      Don't go lose it, baby

      Don't go

      Don't go lose it, baby


A winner never, never

      Never stays behind

      A winner comes a quick run far

      A winner don't give up

      A winner breaks the record

      A winner is ready for talk

      Yes, a winner is on the move
A winner is the mood

      A winner is on the run

      A winner is never down

      Don't go
Don't go lose it, baby

      Don't go
Don't go lose it, baby

      Don't go
Don't go lose it, baby

      Don't go
Don't go lose it, baby


Everybody out there in Soweto
Don't go lose it, baby

      Don't go

      Don't go lose it, baby


A winner and a loser

      A loser and a winner

      Let me tell you that's the name of the game

      When you lose you booze

      And when you booze you lose

      And then you wonder why you lose your shoes

      I met a girl one day

      She was on her way

      To make a movie down in L.A.

      She said: "I never lose"

      I said: "You never win"

      I bet you never ever heard her name

      When every winner's name
Is in the Hall of fame

      And you're a winner when you beat the game

      And you're a winner when you beat the game
      And you're a winner when you beat the game

      And you're a winner, and you're a winner
And you're a winner


      Don't go
Don't go lose it, baby

      Don't go

      Don't go lose it, baby

      Don't Go Lose It Baby

      I couldn't go past track 2, Motla Le Pula (The Rainmaker) for the next track to discuss. It kicks off with a classical Kwela type beat - Kwela is a penny whistle-based, street music from southern Africa with jazzy underpinnings and a distinctive, skiffle-like beat. It is the sound just like you would expect to come out of the Soweto clubs from the 50's onward - and then, Masekela suddenly breaks the piece into a more contemporary refrain before moving back into the Kwela beat. It's a clever piece of work combining the 'old' with the 'new' and just reinforces the mans brilliance.

      A happy song, regardless of the fact that the lyrics are not in English, but music IS the universal language and we want to sing along anyway, even if it's just to sing "Africa"! So, listen and 'sing' and you may find it hard to not dance around as well!

      The Rainmaker

      The 3rd track to look at is track #6 - Lady! The composer is none other than Fela Kuti, a master of South African music himself. I love the mixture of percussion instruments from traditional wood based through to the conventional rock drum kit. Yes, it is another dance track! But so what? African music can be many things but surely celebrating life through dance is a main component of that music. To my ear it sounds like it has a 'traditional' root in it, maybe ,just maybe based upon an older traditional piece, but wow! treated with what is still been almost 30 years after it was recorded, a very modern and appropriate treatment.

      Oh, and a mighty, mighty good electric guitar break some two-thirds through, a few shivers went up my spine!

      If you call woman
      African woman no go 'gree
      She go say I be Lady o

      If you call woman
      African woman no go 'gree
      She go say I be Lady o

      She go say:
      She go say I no be woman
      She go say market woman na woman
      She go say I be Lady

      I want tell you about Lady: (3x)
      She go say him equal to man
      She go say him get power like man
      She go say anything man do
      Him self fit do
      I never tell you finish... (3x)
      I never tell you...
      She go want take cigar before anybody
      She go want make you open door for am
      She go want make man wash plate for her for kitchen
      She want salute man she go sit down for chair (2x)
      She want sit down for table before anybody (2x)
      She want piece of meat before anybody (2x)
      Call am for dance, she go dance Lady dance (2x)

      African woman go dance she go dance the fire dance (2x)
      She know him manna Masster
      She go cook for am
      She go do anything he say
      But Lady no be so (4x)
      Lady na Masster (3x)
      Call am for dance, she go dance Lady dance (2x)
      African woman go dance she go dance the fire dance (2x)
      She know him manna Masster
      She go cook for am
      She go do anything he say

      But Lady no be so (4x)
      Lady na Masster (4x)
      If you call am woman
      African woman no go 'gree
      She go say I be Lady

      She go say:
      She go say I be Lady
      She go say I no be woman
      She go say market woman na woman
      She go say I be Lady
      *(repeat indefinitely)


      Man alive, yet another album where there are so many great tracks, but I cannot go past track # 7 - U-Dwi. The moment that guitar kicks in, and it reminds me so much of the style of Nigerian artist, Sir Victor Uwaifo, and the guitar is followed by the organ and bass guitar. Once again we are transported once again to the streets of somewhere like Soweto!

      Add the brass to the repetitive bass line with that magnificent 'stretch' that kwela style of music demands, and you shuffle and dance across your lounge room as if you were in South Africa.Once again, and we expect this as it IS Hugh Masekela, the brass is beautifully balanced and provides a seriously good wall of sound to pass through the solid beat that the group plays.


      Most of the tracks I really like. Zulu Wedding is a happy track, as you might expect from the tracks title. It's a sing of celebration and with a strong bass guitar line and the expected bright brass and full backing chorus, it can't fail but to move you.

      Mind you, there is one track that left me cold - The Joke Of Life, for me is one of those lightweight jazz mood tracks, it's just not to my liking - but hey! to each his own.

      Coal Train is a similar style of track, but is in fact a far better example of South African jazz, it is late night music, but far superior to Joke Of Life.

      But lets finish on a high! Track # 10 does just that! Run No More kicks off with one piece of gentle percussion coming in after another before the brass declares itself and the piece resolves into a definite down beat.

      The use of the chorus really compliments the track and supplements the sound of the percussion while the repeating riff is established.

      Then suddenly, out of nowhere Masekela literally bursts into the track on horn. It is a stunning horn solo running across the solid backing beat of the percussion, brass and voices.

      This is a delightful dance track that showcases him as a soloist, and as the leader of a fantastic group, and, don't loose sight of the fact that when I say group, I mean groups - because this is a compilation of work with a variety of musicians.

      Run No More

      Playing in the Dakota Jazz Club - 2012

      Hugh Masekela really is a prodigious South African trumpeter and is truly a living legend. Known for a unique musical blend of his native South African roots with the pop-jazz of the 1960's, he still thrills with his live performances today. As most of us can't get to those performances, we can at least sit back and enjoy his energy and skill as presented on "African Breeze".

      This is not an expensive CD, on Ebay it brings between $3.00 and $10.00Au - in my mind that reflects that many people simply fail to appreciate what they have in regard to the music. So it's not being featured as part of my retro-review of albums from my Crate because it is rare and hard to get, but it IS quality.

      If you can't appreciate the sounds of a true South African music giant, and for whatever reason can't 'tune-into' the style of music then the chances are you haven't even made it this far in the review. If you have made it and you don't have it, do yourself a favour, jump into Ebay right now and purchase it.

      VIDEOS - Sadly there seems to be very few live performances by Hugh Masekela from those early years in the 1960's. However, I have searched for the best versions of the tracks I wanted to present. In fact his fantastic hit Grazing In The Grass is best presented with the original track to a selection of wonderful still pictures.

      Grazing In The Grass

      Township Jive (with Paul Simon & Ladysmith Black Mambazo


      Previous Cream of the Crate Albums

      If you are interested in checking out the first fifty vinyl albums reviewed, just click the albums below.

      Cream of The Crate CD Reviews

      #1 - The Fugs: The Fugs First Album

      #2 - Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings

      #3 - Bob Dylan: Biograph


      #4 - Robin Trower: Essential

      #5 - Sixties Down Under: Various Artists

      #6 - The Big Ol' Box Of New Orleans: Various Artists