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Google Doodle celebrates legendary African jazzman Hugh Masekela

It’s not common for a global tech giant to celebrate an African performer and yet Google Thursday chose to do what took many music fans by surprise.

Yes! Google is celebrating South African jazz legend and political activist Hugh Masekela on what would have been his 80th birthday.

Thursday’s Google Doodle paid tribute to Masekela, who was born in Witbank, South Africa and got his musical start early when he was part of the Jazz Epistles, South Africa’s first all-black jazz band to record an album, NPR reports. But the moment was short-lived, as the members of the Jazz Epistles were quickly banished from South Africa by the country’s apartheid government. Masekela was born in the eastern city of Witbank on April 4, 1939, and took up the trumpet when he was 14.

Masekela landed on his feet, moving to New York City and enrolling in the Manhattan School of Music at age 21. Inspired by the city’s jazz scene and the music of John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Mingus and Max Roach, Masekela began to work on his own sound — and took advice from Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, who encouraged him to develop a unique style that incorporated his South African heritage.
Hugh released 40 solo albums.

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