This is a guest post from my good friend David Njuki, Thank you my friend. I've also posted the first part in a 4 part series of the Interview Hugh Masekela had with Jeff Koinange on Capital Talk. Enjoy!
By David Njuki
By David Njuki
Hugh Masekela needs no introduction if you are an avid music listener. His concert in Nairobi was highly publicized. One could tell this by looking at the number of cars in the parking lot it was obvious that this one going to be packed to the rafters.
Inside there was a lot of pomp from large crowd, all strategic "stage view" positions were already taken and folks were already nodding their heads and swaying to the opening act.
Aaron Rimbui was the curtain raiser for Masekela, an honour for any musician. I could point out him doing his now infamous tracks "Alfajiri" and "Benin" I would certainly love to hear new stuff from him. What stood out from his band for me was the electric guitarist, his name is Isaac, I enjoy the way he plays, and you’d want him to go on and on when he does the guitar solo. The band played around five songs.
Once done the MC starts his introduction of Masekela letting the crowd know how far his career spans all these is happening as the band was settling in. To me the introduction was a bit shallow as I could tell they were words lifted of the wikipedia page. Soon as he is done the stage lights dim.
Picture this; at exactly quarter past nine, everyone is quiet and full of anticipation, the lights dim and then Hugh emerges from backstage wearing an all sky-blue "Madiba shirt" and holding his trumpet on his right hand. The crowd erupts in screams but the stage ambience immediately calms them down as the band starts to play a sublime tune. Masekela steps forward to the mic and starts to blow his trumpet...
A loud applause with a standing ovation follows after the first song, Masekela bows to the crowd in appreciation, he does not say anything after that. The second song has that distinctively south African tune, it is more up-tempo compared to the previous one and almost everyone is doing a jig to it. Who knew Masekela can dance too! and when he does you could hear screams and whistles from the crowd. At the interlude between the third and fourth song, Masekela charms the crowd by sending a shout out to all present and how happy he is to be performing in Nairobi, joking about how he Knows Nairobi people for their protests ( in ref. to PEV) We all laugh about it. The third song he does is a ballad and people soon catch up to the repetitive hook that went "I cant live without you" over and over again, very simple and yet catchy. He sing it both in English and his native South African language while he blows his trumpet in between and at the end.
The fourth song is fast and almost sounded like a lingala tune with heavy percussions dominating the beat and a he guitarist who appears very young caught everyone's attention when he does his solo, he received a rousing applause from the crowd. Those who had appeared stuck up now get up on their feet and dance to this song, some are already gathered next to the stage. The ones near the stage have their cameras and camera enabled phones out, everyone trying to take the best shot of Masekela and his band. We all know the photos are going to be all over the social networks by the end of the night and the next day. The concert is slowly picking up.
"There is a train that comes from ..." gets the crowd roaring, hold up! there is an interruption from someone, sadly In the midsts of all the crowd I did not manage to witness the actual incidence. I learn later on that Chris Kirubi aka DJ CK caused an interruption, he must really love "Stimela (Coal Train)" which Masekela was about to sing. I'm sure whatever Kirubi had in his system that evening was not cheap for him to pull such a stunt. Masekela lets it slide, it does not bother him at all. He engages the crowd in a bit of laughter about the incident and the song starts again. "Stimela ( Coal Train)" is a huge hit from Masekela no wonder everyone was elated about it. Familiar songs by artists of such magnitude always get an overly positive response from the audience. I can see by now every one is up from their seat, lost in the music and it does not stop there, next up is his rendition of Fela Anikulapo Kuti's "Lady".
Initially, not very many people notice it is the now that song, Masekela cover has a kick to it and is slightly faster and obviously live music sounds different. Soon as he started to sing, almost everyone picks it up, with a roar of course. "Lady" is a huge hit by Fela and Masekela did it as a tribute to the great "African Rock star" as he is fondly refereed to by a lot of people. Masekela's rendition gives you that feeling of a fast drive through the city at night with the lights seemingly blurry. Everyone sings along to the hook of this one. At the moment the crowd is electric, there is so much energy from the everyone and the climax gets an ever louder applause compared to the previous song. Masekela has everyone under his musical spell.
He did not stop there."Grazing in the Grass" topped the billboard 100 all the way back in 1968, after all these years it is still a favourite of most people. I recall Masekela performed it last year during the FIFA 2010 World Cup concert in his own home country of South Africa, it has become a sort of an African Jazz standard. Masekela starts to perform "Grazing in the Grass" the crowd joins him by dancing as he blows his trumpet to this one. I noticed that he has done three of his huge hist in a row I ask myself, was that all? The crowd demands more, chanting "we want more" repeatedly. He gives in to the crowd. The eight songs is about praising a bride during her wedding day, it is called "Makoti" and is on his new album titled Jabulani. The song sounds like it should, celebratory.
After he is done, he engages the crowd in a bit of humour by saying he is an old man and he needs a break, everyone laughs. He introduces ninth song of the night referred to as "Khawuleza" As Masekela
tells it, in his younger days it was illegal for blacks to drink in South Africa and just like the speak-easy came into resistance during alcohol prohibition in the USA, the Shebeen was born. Shebeen is the name for illegal drinking houses, whenever the police would raid the townships, little kids would run around yelling "Khawuleza mama" which means "hurry mum don't get caught" Everyone has loosened up and is caught in the music, singing along to the hook.
Tenth song starts and he looks like he can’t stop, for a man of his age you have to hand it to him, he is strong, music does keep him young. The song is very funky and speaks of patriotism to the motherland. Everyone puts their fist in the air as they chant the chorus which goes on something like "Africa Inee". The eleventh song is about a fat woman, he jokes that the woman in that village was so fat you could not see her navel. The song is done is his native language.
Mandela (Bring Him Back) is the encore, almost everyone can sing along to this one. He did this song as part of the movement to rally for the freedom of Nelson Mandela. it has a nice ring to it and a catchy chorus. I could tell everyone intensely enjoyed this concert when he concludes this song.
Capital Talk Interview (Part 1):