Grammy nominated trumpeter and vocalist Hugh Masekela is touring the United States this month, and this Friday, he and his band are making a stop in Middletown, Connecticut at Wesleyan University in celebration of Masekala’s new album, Jabulani.
Some of Masekela’s earliest memories are filled with joyous music. As a child in Witbank, South Africa, he recalls the celebratory songs that filled his home town in the weeks prior to the weddings of friends and family members. In the month before the wedding of his aunt and uncle, when he was just four years old, Masekala remembers “the betrothed’s young neighbors, friends, and relations would conduct a nightly choir practice from dusk until close to midnight, marching up and down the street, singing the most beautiful songs accompanied by occasional, very intricate choreographed moves which were a pure joy to witness.”
When the wedding day finally arrived, the event was filled with music, dancing, feasting, drinking, and seemingly endless merriment. In the years that followed, Masekela committed many of these traditional wedding songs and dances to memory. “I came to really love the songs and looked forward to coming weddings, choir practice and meeting beautiful girls,” he says.
Masekela relives these joyous and heady days of his youth on Jabulani, his new album released in January as part of the ‘Listen 2 Africa Series’ from Razor & Tie. Sometimes wise, sometimes comical, often times both, the 11-song set includes many traditional songs that date back several generations in South African wedding tradition.
“the betrothed’s young neighbors, friends, and relations would conduct a nightly choir practice from dusk until close to midnight, marching up and down the street, singing the most beautiful songs accompanied by occasional, very intricate choreographed moves which were a pure joy to witness.”
“This anthology and choreography have stayed deeply embedded in my memory,” Masekela reflects. “This is a tribute to the township weddings of yesteryear.”
Masekela is joined on Jabulani by a large crew of talented players: bassist Fana Zulu; keyboardists Randal Skippers, Xoli Nkosi and Don Laka; guitarists Cameron Ward and Ntokozo Zungu; drummer Lee-Roy Sauls; and percussionist Godfrey Mgcina. The celebration is further enhanced by the joyous and rousing voices of no less than ten background vocalists.
Jabulani opens with the shimmering “Sossie,” a traditional song that tells the tale of an ex-lover who castigates the other half for marrying someone who is unemotional, overly intellectual, and worst of all, can’t dance. In the townships of South Africa, Masekela says “being unable to dance is a sign of dementia and total social bankruptcy.”
The rousing “Fiela” is a bit of practical advice to young married couples to make a happy home by making a clean home, while the yearning but upbeat “Iph’Indela” is one man’s lament for a beautiful lover he left behind in Takoradi – a port city in Ghana – and his vow to go back and find her.
Masekela explains that the weddings of South Africa’s rural and urban communities “are filled with declarations of caution, inspiration, joy, apprehension, doubt, downright excitement, and endless advice. The speeches are all about domestic bliss, generosity, protection, respect, affection, kindness, loyalty love, regeneration, intimacy and support. They are pleas against violence, abuse infidelity, amnesia, slothfulness, jealousy, envy and exploitation. Hundreds of songs are composed anonymously on these issues and rehearsed for months before the wedding.”
Simply put, says Masekela, the very heart of Jabulani “is beautiful music. I pray that these kinds of wedding celebrations can come back into our lives. As you listen to these songs, I wish you boisterous abandon and joyous ululations.”
Visit Masekala’s website at listen2.com/HughMasekelaJabulaniEcard/#/profile.
Masekala will hold a pre-concert talk at 7:15pm. His performance will go from 8pm to 10pm. For ticket information, call (860)685-3355 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Wesleyan University is located at 70 Wyllys Avenue in Middletown, Connecticut.