Zim artistes mourn Masekela


HARARE - Jazz songstress Prudence Katomeni-Mbofana and Afro-fusion star Victor Kunonga, who were working with the late internationally-acclaimed Hugh Masekela on a yet-to-be-released album, have bemoaned the death of the celebrated South African.

Masekela, who succumbed to prostate cancer on Tuesday aged 78, was behind the formation of an all-female Zimbabwean group called Shai Shai made up of Katomeni-Mbofana, Rumbidzai Tavaziwa, Benita Tarupiwa and Joyce Warikandwa.

The group was a result of a partnership between Semopa, a South African music company led by jazz legend “Bra Hugh” Masekela and Harare-based Ngomanehosho founded by music legend Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi’s manager, Walter Wanyanya.

Last year, Shai Shai recorded a self-titled 12-track album featuring Bra Hugh and Tuku.

The album produced by Kunonga and mastered in Johannesburg by award-winning Nigerian guitarist and producer Kunle Ayo, could not be launched last year because Shai Shai hoped Bra Hugh would recover and be the guest of honour at the launch.

Katomeni-Mbofana told the Daily News yesterday that the South African jazz legend’s death was a big blow to her personally and to Shai Shai which was formed in 2015 after Bra Hugh came to Zimbabwe to pay his respects after the death of mbira legend Dumisani Maraire.

“I am deeply saddened. We have lost a legend a great icon. We will always cherish the times we shared with him and the advice he gave — spoken and through action,” said Katomeni Mbofana.

She added that she “will always cherish” performing alongside the celebrated South African jazz legend.

The BP Yangu Yakwira hit-maker and other Shai Shai members performed at the 2015 edition of the Joy of Jazz Festival in Johannesburg where they were backed by music legends Masekela and Tuku.

Apart from Tuku and Bra Hugh, Shai Shai also featured Norman Masamba (lead guitar), Kunonga (guitar) and Sam Mataure (drums) in their line-up for the concert held at Sandton Convention Centre.

Kunonga, whose music was once described by Masekela as “a fresh, dynamic international sound rooted in African rhythms; musically very superior,” said he would eternally feel honoured to have been afforded the chance to work with the music legend.

“It is very sad news indeed. I am very fortunate to have worked with the great music icon. He was a gentle giant who had in abundance both greatness and humility. What he leaves us is peerless legacy,” said the Kwedu hit-maker.

Kunonga said he feared the worst when he spoke to Bra Hugh last week.

“He didn’t sound very well. I phoned him several times over the last fortnight. We were hoping for the best but sadly it has come to this,” he said.

On the Shai Shai album, Kunonga said they will get guidance from Wanyanya’s Ngomanehosho and the late Masekela’s staff.

“It is sad that he won’t be there at the album launch. It is an album that will always remind us of his humility and greatness,” said Kunonga.

Tuku, who headlined the Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival which took place at Elkah Stadium  in Soweto, Johannesburg on November 4 last year, could not be reached for a comment yesterday.

The Neria singer and his manager Wanyanya were in South Africa to pass their condolences to Bra Hugh’s loved ones.

Wanyanya could not be drawn into saying much about the South African music legend.

“I am broken. Oliver and I are in South Africa now,” he told the Daily News.

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