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Oct 12, 2010 2:07 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Hugh Masakela bringing "get happy" music to Performing Arts Center

Oct 12, 2010 2:07 PM

Jabulani,” translated as “Everybody Get Happy,” is the name of South African musician Hugh Masekela’s latest album, and that philosophy is perfectly in line with Mr. Masekela’s own positive approach to life.

The accomplished performer—a trumpeter, cornetist, flugelhornist, singer, and composer—will be bringing songs from “Jabulani,” along with songs from his prior album, “Phola,” and plenty of his other tunes to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Sunday, October 17, to lift the audience’s spirit, share stories of his African homeland, and introduce his new band.

“We will be trying out a couple of songs from the new album, and our performance will also feature all the old favorites, like ‘Lady,’ ‘Mandela,’ and ‘Marketplace,’” Mr. Masekela wrote in an e-mail from South Africa. “My new band includes Francis Fuster on percussion, Fana Zulu on bass guitar, Randall Skippers on keyboards, LeeRoy Sauls on drums, and Cameron Ward on guitars.”

He has been performing music with Mr. Fuster since 1975, and Mr. Zulu since 1990. “All are outstanding players,” he wrote, “and we sing together street-style.”

Mr. Masekela, who was inspired to become a trumpet player at the age of 14 after seeing actor Kirk Douglas portray a trumpeter in the film “Young Man with a Horn,” has taken a long and colorful road throughout a wide-ranging career.

Early on, he attended London’s Guildhall School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he studied classical trumpet and was befriended by Harry Belafonte. Later, he toured as part of the orchestra for the musical “King Kong,” toured with Paul Simon in support of the singer-songwriter’s “Graceland” album, made guest appearances on records by Mr. Simon and The Byrds (among others), and collaborated on the music for the Broadway play “Sarafina!”

Currently, he’s working on several musical play productions and is doing some film work in addition to his busy performance schedule.

“I am working with a wonderful young theater and film director, James Ngcobo, who is unfairly gifted,” Mr. Masekela wrote. “In January 2010 we opened at the Johannesburg Market Theatre with a musical play, ‘Songs of Migration,’ which sold out most of its run—it goes back into the Market Theatre from November 26 until the end of February 2011, and we have just completed recording the cast album. We are presently working on a grand Miriam Makeba musical for a February 2012 opening, and I am also preparing several feature film projects, most of which are South African stories, through our film company, Bhayiskop Films.”

Mr. Masekela’s own music, in addition to expressing the joyful sentiments so often identified with him, alternately follows a more serious road, as many of his compositions reflect his sometimes difficult life in South Africa in the 1950s and ’60s.

Many of the fans from his homeland are people who have experienced or been affected by apartheid, slavery, and the government issues that have plagued much of South Africa. And Mr. Masekela, who believes that his music is a gift, feels that the universal sentiments held within his music help him to reach out to peoples in South Africa and far beyond.

“The music is not mine,” he wrote, “I found it on Earth, always serenading all of nature, being a key component of it. I come from the people of my homeland, who marinated me in their music and tasked me with a window to the world, to learn from other cultures. Having lived in America, Europe, West, Central and Southern Africa and learning from those communities, I ended up the hybrid I am, a child of the world. This enables all peoples to recognize their contributions in what I play and perform.”

And that, Mr. Masekela says, is the essence of what he finds most rewarding about performing.

“I give back to those who have taught me, what I have learned from them,” he wrote, “when they recognize it we become one. There is no feeling more rewarding than that.”

Hugh Masekela will be performing at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on October 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40, $55, and $70, available online at whbpac.org, in person at the Arts Center at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach, or by calling the box office at 631-288-1500.

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