Music review: Hugh Masekela at the Barbican Centre

Legendary South African trumpeter and singer Hugh Masekela brought the Barbican audience to its feet with a joyful show

South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela has been no stranger to the Barbican in recent years and his latest triumphant appearance showed just why they keep having him back.

The 72-year-old trumpeter and singer certainly seemed at home throughout a joyous set that brought the initially reserved Barbican Hall audience to its feet.

The sold-out gig, which celebrated the start of Commonwealth Week, follows the release of Jabulani, an album of traditional South African wedding songs.

Yet the set was packed with Masekela classics, from soppy yet painfully catchy ballad Mama - which displayed some impressive vocal chops - to the epic tale of exploited miners, Stimela (The Coal Train).


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He switched between his hoarse but majestic vocals and strident flugelhorn solos, backed by a phenomenal quintet of keys, bass, drums, percussion and mesmerising young guitarist Cameron Ward.

The audience was slowly drawn out of its shell, both by the music and his easy sense of humour – a high point was when he adopted an English accent to tell how he was actually born in Yorkshire – until almost everyone was out of their seats. He danced with us, moving like a man half his age.

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The former anti-apartheid campaigner spoke at one point of the suffering in the world, saying how fortunate we all were to be there in the comfort and safety of the Barbican. With him on the stage, how right he was.

* Hugh Masekela performed at the Barbican Centre in Silk Street, EC2, on Saturday March 10, 2012

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