Gregory Porter, jazz, Hugh Masekela, Mahikeng, parking lot

Gregory Porter during his sold out Cape Town show. Image: @gregoryportermusic
| Instagram.

Gregory Porter: A love of jazz and THAT parking lot performance

Gregory Porter dishes on his love of ‘uncle’ Hugh Masekela and that impromptu performance in a North West parking lot.

Gregory Porter, jazz, Hugh Masekela, Mahikeng, parking lot

Gregory Porter during his sold out Cape Town show. Image: @gregoryportermusic
| Instagram.

Fans are still in a daze after jazz icon and Grammy winner Gregory Porter’s South African tour last month. The singer wowed audiences at sold-out shows in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

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Although he annually books up to 200 concerts, Porter, in a recent interview with News24, revealed that he will always remembers his humble beginnings.

Before the father of two became the powerhouse that he is today, Porter recalled a special impromptu performance in the North West during his first visit to South Africa more than a decade ago.

Hugh Maskela, Gregory Porter, Jazz, South African tour
Fresh off his South African tour, Gregory Porter has a special message for SA. Image: @gregoryportermusic | Instagram.

“People will say that I’ve performed at the fancy Royal Albert Hall. Yeah, sure, but when I first came to SA, I went to Mahikeng and I performed at a grocery store parking lot in a township. The children were sitting on the pavement. They were about 40 but in my mind they were sitting in the front row of an arena. I love bringing music to the people. When I sing Take Me To The Alley, this is what I am talking about,” Porter told The Citizen.

“When I came here the first time, I thought I was just extra entertainment but there were thousands of people singing my songs back to me. I was a bit shocked. I don’t perform the songs the way I do on the studio version. The song at the time was Hey Laura, and I was deviating from the studio version and the audience was singing it back to me the way it was. Now I had to remember how I sang it,” he added.

Porter has a special message for the people of South Africa.

“At your most majestic, you should not forget the people who are in the darkness, the people who need your help. The hungry people, don’t forget about them,” he told eNCA in a video interview.


The past week marked five years since the passing of South African jazz royalty Hugh Masekela.

During the interview, Porter expressed his admiration and love for the late musician.

“Hugh has always felt like an uncle in a way. I’ve only had an opportunity to meet him twice before he passed. His sound, rawness and way of doing things is a way that can influence a lot of artists today.”

“I once saw him perform and at that time, he was well-up in age, and I saw him bend down almost all the way to the floor, and he played his horn almost on the floor. I was on tour at that time and I was a bit tired. I tried to do what he did and I couldn’t do it. That is how fantastic he was,” he added.


Apart from his admiration for Hugh Masekela, Porter is also a big fan of Nat King Cole.

“When I was a little boy I did not know that I was listening to jazz when my mother put on Nat King Cole, I had no idea what it was but it was good. My mother used to take out the sound system and put it out on the street and she would say, ‘son, sing to these people’”, the icon said.

“These people were alcoholics, prostitutes and people who had some difficulty with drugs. And she told me that those are the people who need what I have because those are the first people who I sang for,” Porter recalled.

He credits his musical idols Luther Vandross and James Brown, and encourage upcoming jazz artists to embrace the work of those who preceded the way for them.  

“Every generation has new influences. I had different influences than Nat King Cole had. Marvin Gaye had different influences. But how fortunate am I to have the influence of Marvin Gaye, Don Hathaway, Bill Withers. I think it should be acceptable to bring in new influences because you build off the legacy of what came before. We should not fear salting the sound of jazz with good hip hop. All the other music are cousins of jazz,” he explains.

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