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Review: Hugh Masekela, Theatre Royal

10:46 22 May 2014

NNF14 - Hugh Masekela at Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: JMA Photography.

NNF14 - Hugh Masekela at Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: JMA Photography.

JMA Photography

Not only do you go to listen to Hugh Masekela; you go to salute him for what he represents, for he took himself and his music from the brutal apartheid of his South African homeland in the Sixties, and we’ve been celebrating ever since.

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NNF14 - Hugh Masekela at Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: JMA Photography.NNF14 - Hugh Masekela at Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: JMA Photography.

Celebration shines through the rhythms and grooves of what he does. He kept the spirit of township music alive until he was able to return to his homeland when Nelson Mandela was released; his passion for his heritage shines through in his music and reflects a dissatisfaction with the way things are in the world.

Wednesday’s concert was a joyful affair: Masekela, now 75, but showing no signs of slowing down, was in turn musician, singer and amusing raconteur. Apart from his nimble work on flugelhorn, his voice is amazing – flexible enough to add the various growls and whoops to flavour his music.

His message is clear, exhorting us to respect the world we live in, and its people. His love of Bob Dylan’s work is obvious, and his version of It’s All Over Now Baby Blue took a different slant from its writer. Stimela, Masekela’s song about the grim trains which carry African labourers to work in the mines was full of passion (and authentic train sounds). But it all ended with jubilation and the audience as one dancing to the rhythms of the splendid backing band.

Opening the concert, Andy Sheppard gave an impressive display both of saxophone wizardry (lots of circular breathing) and a skilled use of electronics to flesh out his solo instrument. Good to see him in Norwich again.

David Wakefield

• Hugh Masekela is part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival which runs until Sunday. Visit www.nnfestival.org.uk

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