WATCH: The life of Hugh Masekela

Hugh Maseka has died at the age of 78, following a long battle with prostate cancer.

Hugh Maseka has died at the age of 78, following a long battle with prostate cancer.

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JOHANNESBURG - Trumpeter and singer Hugh Masekela, known as the "father of South African jazz" who used his music in the fight against apartheid, has died from prostate cancer, his family said on Tuesday. He was 78.

In a career spanning more than five decades, Masekela gained international recognition with his distinctive Afro-Jazz sound and hits such as Soweto Blues, which served as one of the soundtracks to the anti-apartheid movement.

Following the end of white-minority rule, he opened the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup Kick-Off Concert and performed at the event's opening ceremony in Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium.

"Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre, and the arts, in general, is contained in the minds and memory of millions," a statement on behalf of the Masekela family said.

"Rest in power beloved, you are forever in our hearts."

READ: &39;Father of South African jazz&39; Hugh Masekela dies

His song Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela), written while Masekela was in living in exile, called for the release of the-then imprisoned Mandela and was banned by the apartheid regime.

South African President Jacob Zuma said the nation would mourn a man who "kept the torch of freedom alive".

His global appeal hit new heights in 1968 when his instrumental single Grazing the Grass went to number one in the US charts.

As well as close friendships with jazz legends like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Charlie Mingus, Masekela also performed alongside stars Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s.

He was married to singer and activist Miriam Makeba, known as Mama Africa, from 1964 to 1966.