South African singer and musician Johnny Clegg has passed away. He was 66 years old and died of the effects of pancreatic cancer. Clegg is one of the symbols of opposition to the racist apartheid regime in South Africa: although it was forbidden, he founded interracial groups. Long before American singer Paul Simon discovered South African music, Johnny Glegg was working with local Zulu singers and musicians.
In South Africa itself, Clegg is regarded as a symbol of the multiracial rainbow nation of the post-apartheid era.
In 1969 he founded his first interracial group Juluka. Their music was not played on South African radio, because interracial groups were prohibited under the apartheid regime. Juluka’s music is politically engaged: various group members were regularly arrested and concerts of the group often interrupted.
With his second group Savuka (“we are awake” in Zulu), Johnny Clegg breaks through internationally. Johnny Clegg and Savuka brings a mix of western and African music long before rock groups like Talking Heads or Malcolm McLaren, spiritual father and manager of Bow Wow Wow a.o. infused pop music with African rhythms. The lyrics of Savuka are often a mix of English and Zulu. In France Glegg is nicknamed “the white Zulu”.
Well-known songs from Johnny Clegg are “Scatterlings of Africa” – which was featured in the soundtrack of the movie “Rain Man” in 1988 -, “Asimbonanga” – “We never saw him”, about Nelson Mandela – and “Dela”.