Nandipha Pantsi
2 minute read
4 Sep 2015
8:00 am

‘I’m not retiring any time soon’- Hugh Masekela

Nandipha Pantsi

Hugh Masekela is one of the country’s most renowned musicians, but he’s only performed at one event in SA since the beginning of the year.

After decades in the music industry, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the 76-year-old icon was taking things easy, but he’s quick to say this is not the case.

“I’m not retiring any time soon,” he says with a laugh. “What will I eat? How will I pay SARS? Times are tough for musicians these days. I’ve only performed once because that is the only booking I’ve gotten in the country. If it were not for my international following, I really don’t know how I would survive financially.”

Masekela rejects titles such as “legend” and “icon”, which are often attached to his name. “What is a legend in Xhosa?” he asks. “Those words do not even exist in the African culture.” He makes it clear he sees himself simply as a working musician who is trying to survive – just like everyone else.

“People tend to look at musicians performing and think we’re just having fun. If you’ve ever seen me on stage, you will know that I sweat when I’m up there. That’s because I am working,” he says.

Masekela will be performing at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz of Jazz festival taking place from September 24 to 26 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. Masekela was one of the artists who launched the festival 18 years ago and has been in the line-up numerous times.

This year, Masekela will collaborate with the legendary Oliver Mtukudzi. “I have a very special relationship with the Joy of Jazz. It’s one of the few events which continues to give established and new musicians a space to work.”

As he reminisces on his more than five decades as a musician, he doesn’t seem too optimistic about the future of young musicians. “Things have changed a lot in the music industry. There aren’t enough places where musicians from all corners of the continent can hone their skills.

“I remember back in the day when Hillbrow and Yeoville were a musician’s dream. “There was always a place to go to for good live music. Now these venues have disappeared – and this is killing our music industry.”

His advice to young musicians: “Don’t expect things to be done for you. Create your own situation from which you can survive.

“When we were young we would make our own posters advertising our shows.

“Young people shouldn’t be afraid of doing things for themselves, otherwise the creative industry will be in trouble.”


  • The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre from September 24 to 26. This year, 35 musicians will perform on four stages.
  • Tickets available at