Hugh Masekela at the 2014 Steve Biko Memorial Lecture, Europe

What an honour it was to be in the presence of the great Hugh Masekela, and what a way to commemorate Steve Biko.

Hugh Masekela














As well as being a top notch  trumpeter, flugelhornist, bandleader, composer and singer who’s musical career it’s been a massive pleasure to follow over the years, Hugh Masekela is a great raconteur and political speaker.

Before he began his lecture on arts and activism, he treated the audience to an emotionally stirring solo performance of his iconic hit coal train. An unbelievable treat.

Hugh Masekela















Hugh then went on to speak on the history of South Africa leading up to Apartheid and beyond, calling for Africans to know themselves, understand our own great traditions including the musical ones.

An interesting Q and A followed. Despite the pleas of the Chair, Professor Thandika Mkandawire, for focussed questions rather than proclamations, there were some in the audience who appeared unable to follow this simple instruction. Hugh dealt with these in his usual humorous and entertaining way.

His response to a question about the two bits of wisdom he’d want to share from his life experience:

“Don’t be a politician it’s too dangerous”


“Sex is over rated, don’t try to get too much of it”

Later he was presented with a wonderful portrait by the director of the Steve Biko Foundation, Obenewa Amponsah, and Nkosinathi Biko, one of Steve Biko’s sons.

Hugh Masekela portrait
















The obvious warmth between Hugh and others who took to the podium on the night was touching to watch.

After the lecture, despite his gruelling tour schedule, Hugh generously paused for photo opportunities. What a guy…

Hugh Masekela

















And let’s not forget who this talk was all about, Steve Biko, who’s life was tragically cut short by the wickedness of the agents of Apartheid.

Steve Biko portrait














Watch the Lecture (approx 90 minutes) – it’s all good (but if you want to skip the intros, the coal train performance starts about 14 minutes in so drag the slider if you want to cut straight to Hugh):



Kudos to all who were involved in putting together such a memorable evening. Made extra special by the presence of my own family.

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