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As North American Tour Kicks off, Masekela Unhappy with World's Response to Darfur, Other Crisis Spots
By Ayesha Attah
"I'm not starry-eyed about being a part of the human race," laments South African legend Hugh Masekela. The 68-year-old told The AFRican that the faith he's lost in humanity will not be restored until something is done about injustice in the world.

Masekela hits the North American concert and tour scene starting this week, visiting cities and small towns all over the United States and Canada. This prospect doesn't excite Masekela, who has lived and been in and out of the United States for 30 years. He made it clear he's no tourist. What concerns him most is the quality of life of the poor and marginalized.

From beginnings in apartheid South Africa, where he was introduced to the trumpet by Father Trevor Huddleston, Masekela has since worked with other legendary artists from Miriam Makeba to Louis Armstrong and has authored over thirty albums.

What is going to be different this year is the promotion of his new album, Live at the Market Theatre, a celebration of 30 years of the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa. The album launches on July 17. The Market Theatre produced unforgettable classics such as Sarafina, and was one of the few institutions to have survived the apartheid. Times Square/4 Q Records and Chissa Entertainment Group are the magic behind this album. Chissa Entertainment is also releasing DVDs, live records and other promotional material for the anniversary.

Despite this celebration, it's not all fun and games in the Masekela camp. He won't be mincing words about racism, injustice, sexism against women, family and child abuse and plans to dedicate each concert to people of Darfur and Zimbabwe.

The beginning of this tour comes at a fitting time, given that the African Union's 9th Summit was held last week in Accra, Ghana. Masekela, who was also in Accra, is currently a goodwill ambassador to Darfur. He said of the summit and its participants, 50 African heads of state, that politicians always act in their self-interest and don't readily put down fellow politicians - perhaps a reference to Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe who was present at the summit. He said the AU's biggest achievement was deploying soldiers in conflict areas, but he hasn't seen any consistency with their work:

"Things that should be outrageous, they've got no concern about. Angola happened, Somalia happened, Congo happened, we watched. And it goes on and on."

He wants to see a huge outcry against the atrocities in Darfur, similar, he said to that which was raised against apartheid in South Africa.

Despite Masekela's disillusion with the state of human affairs, one gets a glimmer of hope when he starts talking about music. He says Chissa Entertainment Group has and will be forming partnerships with like-minded industries all over the continent. They've already collaborated with EKD Entertainment in Ghana.

Masekela's goal is to get Africans involved in the whole music production process, from the distribution to the writing to the retail. He blamed the exodus of African talent in the 1980s and 1990s on the lack of infrastructure and said, "Until we own our own industry ourselves with our own vision... until we're like that, our talent doesn't stand a chance."

While he refuses to give in to categorization and frivolities and laments the war Africans especially have been at since time immemorial, he really wants people to be happy. He ends with this charge: "It is incumbent upon all of us to get up and act [on injustice], so we can all have a good time. It is the duty of all us."

Photo Courtesy of: Rock Paper Scissors

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