Widely known as "The Father of South African Jazz", Masekela was a leading figure in the struggle against white-minority rule.
"Bra Hugh", as Masekela was popularly known, represented a generation of cultural activists that used its artistic prowess and talent to rally young and old South Africans to overthrow the oppressive former apartheid government, spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize said.
In 1974, Masekela released his album I Am Not Afraid, which included Stimela (Coal Train), a song that became synonymous with his performances for decades to come.
Born in Witbank, South Africa, Masekela started playing the piano in the dusty Soweto township in the 1950's and composed his first song, Soweto Blues in 1976, in response to the Soweto uprising.
Aged 21 in 1960, Masekela went into a 30-year exile to escape the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Masekela performed at both the opening concert of the 2010 Fifa World Cup and the tournament's opening ceremony in Soweto's Soccer City.
His catchy upbeat 1987 song "Bring Him Back Home" calling for Nelson Mandela's release from prison became an global anthem for the anti-apartheid movement.
Mike Dada, the President and Executive Producer of Afrima, said that Masekela's death was a huge loss for the continent and African music.
"His outstanding contribution and exceptional track record in the liberation struggle of our country as well as his vast contribution to the transformation of the arts in South Africa, the African continent and the world, bares a testimony of the calibre of person he was, a true Living Legend indeed", says Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
"A baobab tree has fallen, the nation has lost a one of a kind musician with the passing of Jazz legend bra Hugh Masekela", wrote the South African Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, in a tweet.
He performed at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, alongside Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, before releasing Grazing in the Grass in 1968, which reached number one on the pop and R&B charts.
Masekela married Miriam Makeba in 1964, but the couple divorced in 1966.
"It was a great experience for us".