5 Fast Facts About Hugh Masekela

Pius Utomi Expei, AFP/Getty Images
Pius Utomi Expei, AFP/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela, the “father of South African jazz,” has been honored with a Google Doodle on what would have been his 80th birthday today. The musician, singer, composer, and human rights advocate died of prostate cancer in January 2018, but his songs continue to live on around the world. Here are five facts you might not know about this jazz icon.

  1. Hugh Masekela played Louis Armstrong's old trumpet.

Masekela started playing the piano at age 6, but discovered his true calling as a teen. At 14, he decided to take up the trumpet after watching the 1950 film Young Man with a Horn, starring Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day. Three years later, Masekela ended up with Louis Armstrong’s old trumpet after the iconic musician heard about a youth band in South Africa in need of instruments. Masekela said the instrument made him feel as if he had a “spiritual connection” with jazz musicians in America.

  1. Hugh Masekela was part of the first all-black jazz band to record an album in South Africa.

Masekela and pianist Dollar Brand founded their band, The Jazz Epistles, in 1959. Together, they tore down barriers by recording an album, playing at white clubs, and organizing a national concert tour—all things that were unheard of at the time for black artists.

  1. Hugh Masekela was essentially exiled.

Masekela left South Africa at the age of 21 after his tour with The Jazz Epistles was canceled in the wake of the Sharpeville Massacre, which ushered in new laws prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. He studied music in England and then continued on to New York, where he enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music. Masekela planned to return to his home country after graduation, but was unable to do so because of the government's apartheid policies. “By then [Nelson] Mandela had been sentenced to life imprisonment,” Masekela told CNN in 2009. “So I stayed 26 years longer than I planned to."

  1. In 1968, one of Hugh Masekela's songs climbed to the top of U.S. pop charts.

Masekela’s single "Grazing in the Grass" was the number one Billboard song in 1968. At one point, his song was more popular than “Hello, I Love You” by The Doors, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” by Mama Cass, and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones.

  1. Hugh Masekela's music was the soundtrack to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

In 1987, Masekela performed a protest song he wrote titled “Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela).” The opening lines are: “Bring back Nelson Mandela, bring him back home to Soweto. We want to see him walking down the streets of South Africa, tomorrow.” His wish came true—albeit three years later—when Mandela was finally released from prison, and later elected president.

The Bus From Spice World is Now an Airbnb Rental

Razzladazzla, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This summer, Airbnb is giving 1990s kids the chance to fulfill their dream of living like a Spice Girl. As People reports, the Spice Bus, made famous by the 1997 movie Spice World, has been converted into an Airbnb rental—and it's open to guests for only a few nights in June.

After shuttling Baby, Sporty, Scary, Posh, and Ginger Spice around London in Spice World, the Spice Bus fell into disrepair. The movie prop was neglected for years until the Island Harbour Marina on the Isle of Wight purchased it and renovated it to its former glory. It went on display on the island in July 2014.

Now, the bus is moving back to London as a quirky vacation rental. On June 14 and June 15, up to three guests per night will sleep over in the bus at its temporary location at Market Square in Wembley Park. There they'll be made to feel like pop princesses (or princes). The interior has been decked out with Union Jack upholstery to match the outside paint job and zebra-print carpeting that would make Mel B proud. There are also disco balls, a neon sign that says "Girl Power," and nostalgic goodies like scrunchies and CDs.

Rates start at $129 per night, but the two announced dates have already been filled. Spice Girls fans looking to relive their childhood shouldn't give up hope: More rental dates may open starting May 22. After the bus's stint in London, it will return to its home on the Isle of Wight at the end of June.

[h/t People]

10 Amazing Variations on the Game of Thrones Theme Song

Jerome Flynn and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Game of Thrones
Jerome Flynn and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

Game of Thrones has an iconic credits sequence, featuring a memorable theme song composed by Emmy Award-winning artist Ramin Djawadi. It's weirdly catchy—so much so that other artists have found increasingly unique ways to cover it over the years.

1. NESKeytar

Greig Stewart combined a Guitar Hero controller with an old school Nintendo to create the NESKeytar he used in this cover. Bonus: The NES still works as a separate gaming system!

2. Floppy Drives

Eight floppy drives playing in sync. The geekery is extreme.

3. Violin

A beautiful electric/acoustic violin version by Jason Yang.

4. Hard Rock

Roger Lima overdubs some metal riffage, drums, electric bass, and several layers of electric guitar.

5. Metal

Charlie Parra del Riego shreds.

6. Classical Guitar

Five guitar tracks!

7. Solo Piano

Bonus geek cred if you know the answer to his opening question.

8. 8-bit

YouTube commenter skinke says it best: "No? 'Game of Tones'? That's a missed opportunity if I've ever seen one."

9. Piano and Violin

Lara, coverer of video game music, takes a shot at this one, purely by ear. Wow.

10. Guitar, Cello, Drums, Shaker, and Flute

Talent show players for the win!

This post has been updated for 2019.

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