African Jazz icon Hugh Masekela will receive an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa this week, days before his 76th birthday on 4 April.
Masekela is one of South Africa’s most prominent and influential musicians of the past 50 years. Exiled for decades during apartheid, he established himself in the USA and UK, also spending time in various African countries. He returned to South Africa in the early 1990s and remains active, performing regularly at home and abroad. He recently returned from his 20 Years of Freedom Tour of the USA with guitarist Vusi Mahlasela, performing some 18 gigs across the country over the course of a month.
In an article published by Times Live, Rhodes University spokeman Zamuxolo Matiwana said Masekela was “without doubt one of South Africa’s most successful artists and his influence on world music has been nothing short of phenomenal”.
“The university is ideally placed to acknowledge Masekela’s unique appreciation of the struggles of ordinary people in their movement between town and country‚” said Matiwana. “It is located in the Eastern Cape‚ the source of the migrant labour depicted in his ‘Stimela’ song‚ an area that forcibly or otherwise recruited labour for the urban centres of South Africa for at least two centuries.
“Awarding Masekela an honorary doctorate recognises both his inestimable contribution to South African music and its place in the world. It also contributes significantly to the vision of making International Library of African Music at Rhodes‚ a living monument to African musical accomplishment of which Masekela is one of the most formidable examples,” added Matiwana.
It is not Masekela’s first doctorate. In July 2014, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of York in the UK.
The university will also award honorary doctorates to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela‚ art expert David Koloane, former Vice-Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat and welfare activist Professor Francie Lund this week.