Playing the Soundtrack of Our Lives

There are many contemporary musical artists around whose work touches us deeply, inspires us, motivates us, tells our life stories in their lyrics and songs. We think of them as playing the soundtrack of our very lives.

A select few musicians in the world, though, rise to the status of soundtrack-makers for entire cultures, peoples and nations. Hugh Masekela, the South African jazz trumpeter who passed on recently at the age of 78, is among that highly regarded level of musical giants. His music was the soundtrack of a nation-in-the-making, South Africa, and spoke directly to countless numbers of people around the globe, especially in the African diaspora.

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No Necktie for a Dictator

It was January 1990 and here I was at a conference center in Harare, the capital city of the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, sniffing around for some kind of a good story I might report at a high-level, ministerial meeting of British Commonwealth nations — a gathering of sovereign countries, like Zimbabwe, that still bowed down and answered to their former colonial master, the United Kingdom, out of economic necessity and survival. Nothing much happening here, I thought, and I was just about ready to leave the boring governmental event empty-handed.

Then, luck of all luck, I spied over in an isolated corner of the lobby of the conference center a VIP greeting the occasional straggling guest. But it was not just any old VIP. It was Robert Gabriel Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, who had just delivered the welcoming speech.

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Castro’s Most Enduring Legacy: An African Story

Say the words “Cuito Cuanavale” to the average American citizen, liberal and conservative alike, and you’re likely to get a shrug and a blank stare in response. Add the name “Fidel Castro” to that phrase and you’ll instantly notice a nervous tick in their squinting eyes. Dare to throw the word “hero” into the mix and you’ll see a definite jerking motion in their knees and a reddening in the face.

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