Hugh Masekela: Masekela 66-76 review crammed with great music

This rich collection of great music, some of which has been unavailable for years, represents the South African musicians remarkable lifes work

When Hugh Masekela died in January this year, he was rightly revered as one of Africas finest musicians, a trumpeter and flugelhorn player, singer and songwriter who blended jazz with South African styles, and used his music to battle apartheid.

His early career was not easy, and this remarkable 47-track retrospective is taken from 11 varied and experimental albums, many of which were never released in the UK. Its crammed with great music that was not commercially successful, either because it was too angry or simply too far ahead of its time.

The 1960s and 70s were a period of constant change for Masekela. Exiled from South Africa, he moved to the US, where he notched up a massive hit, the delightful instrumental Grazing in the Grass (which is included here). But his involvement with the black power and anti-Vietnam war movements, and new tracks such as Mace and Grenades, and Gold, upset his record company and conservative American audiences. His career began to suffer, but he continued to record such exquisite tracks as Minawa (on which he was joined by pianist Larry Willis and saxophonist Dudu Pukwana) before heading off to west Africa, where he recorded with the Ghanaian band Hedzoleh Soundz. The exuberant 1973 set Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz is included in full, as is the follow-up album, I Am Not Afraid, in which Masekela was joined by Hedzoleh along with pianist Joe Sample and drummer Stix Hooper from the Crusaders. A classic collaboration between African and American artists, it includes the original versions of Stimela and Masekelas tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, Night in Tunisia. Its extraordinary that so much great music has been unavailable for so long.

This months other picks

Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch. Photograph: Andy Morgan

Soar (Bendigedig Records) is the long-awaited second album from Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita, in which the classically trained Welsh harpist and Senegalese-born griot and kora player demonstrate their musical empathy on a delicate and often exquisite set that celebrates the freedom of ospreys who nest in Wales and winter in west Africa, and includes, also, a remarkable treatment of an excerpt from Bachs Goldberg Variations. From Australia, theres Djarimirri (Skinnyfish Music) from Gurrumul, completed a few weeks before the aboriginal superstars death last year. His celebrated soulful voice is drowned beneath a soundscape of brass and strings.

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Marissa SafontHugh Masekela: Masekela 66-76 review crammed with great music

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