No One Partied Like Masakela – Nana Akufo-Addo
The world, they say, is a stage, where all men and women are mere players. But to the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the life of late friend, Hugh Ramapolo Masekela, Africa’s greatest trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and singer was more than that of a mere player.
Recalling how they first met as young men some 50 years ago, and the friendship that ensued thereafter, the President said he and the South African legend were true contemporaries.
“There are some people who cross your life, and you know that it is a privilege to share the same time and space with them. Masakela was one such. I feel truly privileged to have lived at the same time as him, and to have been blessed by his friendship”.
In a tribute he read at the funeral of Masekela in Johannesburg yesterday, Nana Akufo-Addo recalled that if there was anybody who partied and had real fun in his lifetime, then it must surely have been the father of South African Jazz.
“What an amazing life he lived, and did virtually everything he wanted to do. We met a long time ago, nearly 50 years ago. Predictably, for both of us at the time, it was at the bar of Keteke, then the hottest night club (or disco, as they were then being called) in Accra. He was already a legend – “King Kong”, and “Grazing in the Grass” had seen to that. But, he wore none of that. Simple, straightforward, he exuded fun and warmth. Many drinks later, we became firm friends, and looked out for and saw each other at various clubs across the world – New York, London, Paris, Lagos, Abidjan, Lome – wherever we were together, we would meet and party. Nobody partied like Masakela”.
President Akufo-Addo, among his fond memories of his departed friend, also painted a vivid picture of a meeting the two of them had with the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti at a beach in Togo, and revealed that tears rolled down his cheeks whenever he recalled the incident.
“I was fortunate in my friendship with him and his great friend, that other great figure of African music, Fela Anikulapo Kuti (Fela Ransome Kuti of earlier years). They made exhilarating company, and left me with marvellous memories. One such was at dawn, in Lome, capital of Togo, when, after leaving the nightclub ‘Z’, we went to the beach, behind the Sarakawa Hotel, and, sitting on the shores of the Gulf of Guinea, looking out across the Atlantic, Masakela played for us for one hour. It was like a song of praise to all that was beautiful on our African continent. Even Fela was moved, and every time I think of it, it brings tears of joy to my heart”.
The Ghanaian leader said the dream he and Masekela nurtured along the line materialised on the day he (Akufo-Addo) was sworn into office as president of Ghana.
“Last year, he did what we had both talked and dreamed of for decades – he played at my inauguration, as President of the Republic of Ghana, on 7th January, 2017. He played on two occasions that day – at the official lunch, and at the wonderful party my brother gave for me and my wife, Rebecca, that evening, both, unforgettable occasions. Indeed, several diplomats told me, on the news of his death, that that was the first and only time they heard him in flesh, a memory they would always cherish”.
Concluding, Nana Akufo-Addo said it was not for nothing that Mesekela, at a point, took a Ghanaian wife, saying it further strengthened the bond between Ghana and South Africa.
“His love of Ghana was such that he became a Ghanaian, and, for me, a member of my family.…. He even married, for a time, the lovely Ghanaian woman, Elinam Cofie. South Africa will always have to share Masakela with us in Ghana, and, indeed, with the rest of Africa”.
Hugh Masekela died on January 23, 2018 after a long battle with prostate cancer at the age of 78. Apart from music, he would also be remembered for his instrumental role in the fight against Apartheid rule in South Africa.