Music database


Johnny Clegg

born on 7/6/1953 in Rochdale, England, United Kingdom

died on 16/7/2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa

Links (English)

Johnny Clegg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jonathan Clegg OBE OIS (born 7 June 1953) is a South African musician and anthropologist who has recorded and performed with his bands Juluka and Savuka, and more recently as a solo act, occasionally reuniting with his earlier band partners. Sometimes called Le Zoulou Blanc ("The White Zulu"), he is an important figure in South African popular music history, with songs that mix Zulu with English lyrics and African with various Western music styles.

Early life and career

Clegg was born in Bacup, Lancashire,[1] to an English father and a Rhodesian mother. Clegg's mother's family were Jewish immigrants from Poland, and Clegg had a secular Jewish upbringing, learning about the Ten Commandments but refusing to have a bar mitzvah or even associate with other Jewish children at school.[2] His parents divorced when he was still an infant, and he moved with his mother to Rhodesia and then, at age 6, to South Africa,[3] also spending less than a year in Israel during childhood.[2]

As an adolescent in Johannesburg's northern suburbs, he encountered the demi-monde of the city's Zulu migrant workers' music and dance. Under the tutelage of Charlie Mzila, a flat cleaner by day and musician by night, Clegg mastered both the Zulu language and the maskandi guitar and isishameni dance styles of the migrants.[4] Clegg's involvement with black musicians often led to arrests for trespassing on government property and for contravening the Group Areas Act. He was first arrested at the age of 15 for violating apartheid-era laws in South Africa banning people of different races from congregating together after curfew hours.[5] At the age of 17, he met Sipho Mchunu, a Zulu migrant worker with whom he began performing music.[3] The partnership, which they named Juluka, was profiled in the 1970s television documentary Beats of the Heart: Rhythm of Resistance.[6]

As a young man, Clegg pursued an academic career for four years, lecturing at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of Natal, and writing several seminal scholarly papers on Zulu music and dance.[4] In the early stages of his musical career, Clegg combined his music with the study of anthropology[6] at Wits, where he was influenced, among others, by the work of David Webster, a social anthropologist who was later assassinated in 1989.[5][7][8] He preceded each song with snippets of Zulu culture, information, commentary, humor and personal anecdotes relevant and unique to that song. An engaged social anthropologist, he not only mastered the theories but delved into the culture and disseminated it.[4]


Juluka was an unusual musical partnership for the time in South Africa, with a white man (Clegg) and a black man (Mchunu) performing together. The band, which grew to a six-member group (with three white musicians and three black musicians) by the time it released its first album Universal Men in 1979, faced harassment and censorship, with Clegg later remarking that it was "impossible" to perform in public in South Africa.[9] The group tested the apartheid-era laws, touring and performing in private venues, including universities, churches, hostels, and even private homes in order to attract an audience, as national broadcasters would not play their music.[1] Just as unusually, the band's music combined Zulu, Celtic, and rock elements, with both English and isiZulu lyrics.[9] Those lyrics often contained coded political messages and references to the battle against apartheid,[10] although Clegg has maintained that Juluka was not originally intended to be a political band. "Politics found us," he told The Baltimore Sun in 1996.[9] In a 1989 interview with the Sunday Times, Clegg denied the label of "political activist." "For me a political activist is someone who has committed himself to a particular ideology. I don’t belong to any political party. I stand for human rights."[11]

Juluka's music was both implicitly and explicitly political; not only was the fact of the success of the band (which openly celebrated African culture in a bi-racial band) a thorn in the flesh of a political system based on racial separation, the band also produced some explicitly political songs. For example, the album Work for All (which includes a song with the same title) picked up on South African trade union slogans in the mid-1980s.[12] As a result of their political messages and racial integration, Clegg and other band members were arrested several times and concerts routinely broken up.[13]

Despite being ignored and often harassed by the South African government at home, Juluka were able to tour internationally, playing in Europe, Canada, and the United States,[1] and had two platinum and five gold albums,[9] becoming an international success. The group was disbanded in 1985, when Mchunu returned to his rural home to care for his family.


Together with the black musician and dancer Dudu Zulu, Clegg went on to form his second inter-racial band, Savuka, in 1986, continuing to blend African music with European influences.[3][5][9] The group's first album, Third World Child, broke international sales records in several European countries, including France.[14] The band went on to record several more albums, including Heat, Dust and Dreams, which received a Grammy Award nomination.[15] Johnny Clegg and Savuka played both at home and abroad, even though Clegg's refusal to stop performing in apartheid-era South Africa created tensions with the international anti-apartheid movement and led to his expulsion from the British Musicians' Union.[3] In one instance, the band drew such a large crowd in Lyon that Michael Jackson cancelled a concert there, complaining that Clegg and his group had "stole[n] all his fans".[16] In 1993, the band dissolved after Dudu Zulu was shot and killed while attempting to mediate a taxi war.[5][7][9]

Juluka reunion and solo career

Briefly reunited in the mid-1990s, Clegg and Mchunu reformed Juluka, released a new album,[15] and toured throughout the world in 1996 with King Sunny Ade.[17] Since then, Clegg has recorded several solo albums and continues to tour the world.[1][7] During one concert in 1999, he was joined onstage by South African President Nelson Mandela, who danced as he sang the protest song Savuka had dedicated to him, "Asimbonanga". Asimbonanga became something of an anthem for the Mass Democratic Movement's umbrella organisation, the United Democratic Front. During Mandela's illness and death in 2013, the video of the concert attracted considerable media attention outside South Africa.[7][18]

In popular culture

His song "Scatterlings of Africa" gave him his only entries in the UK Singles Chart to date, reaching No. 44 in February 1983 with Juluka and 75 in May 1987 as Johnny Clegg and Savuka. The following year the song was featured on the soundtrack to the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man.[19]

His song "Life is a Magic Thing" was featured in Ferngully [20]

Savuka's song "Dela" was featured on the soundtrack of the 1997 film George of the Jungle and its 2003 sequel, while "Great Heart" was the title song for the 1986 film Jock of the Bushveld. "Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World" was featured in the 1990 film Opportunity Knocks and 1991 film Career Opportunities. "Great Heart" was also the end credits song for the 2000 Disney movie Whispers: An Elephant's Tale. In 2002 Clegg provided several songs and incidental background music for Jane Goodall's "Wild Chimpanzees" DVD. Included in the extras on the disc are rare scenes of Clegg in the recording studio.

Jimmy Buffett recorded "Great Heart" for his 1988 album, Hot Water.

He co-wrote "Diggah Tunnah" with Lebo M. for Disney's 2004 direct-to-video animated film The Lion King 1½.


  • Clegg was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (Knight of Arts and Letters) by the French Government in 1991.
  • In 2004, he was voted 23rd in the SABC3's Great South Africans.
  • In 2007, Clegg received an honorary doctorate in music from the University of the Witwatersrand.[21]
  • In 2011, Clegg received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from City University of New York School of Law.[22]
  • In 2012, Clegg received the Order of Ikhamanga as part of the National Orders ceremony. This award is the highest honour a citizen can receive in South Africa. It was presented by President Jacob Zuma.[23]
  • In 2012, Clegg received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA.[24]
  • In 2013, Clegg received an honorary Doctorate in Music from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.[25][26]
  • In 2015, Clegg was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.[27][28]

Personal life

Clegg's son Jesse Clegg is also a recording artist. Displaying a style markedly different from that of his father, in 2008 he released his debut album When I Wake Up. As a rock musician, the younger Clegg has quickly built up a following, with the album being nominated for two South African Music Awards.[29]

Clegg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015.[30]


  • Clegg, Jonathan (1981). Phil Bonner, ed. ""Ukubuyisa Isidumbu", "Bringing back the body": An examination of the ideology of vengeance in the Msinga and Mpofana Rural Locations, 1822–1944". Working Papers in Southern African Studies. Johannesburg: Ravan Press. 2.
  • Clegg, Jonathan (1981). Andrew Tracey, ed. "The Music of Zulu Immigrant Workers in Johannesburg: A Focus on Concertina and Guitar". Papers presented at the Symposium on Ethnomusicology. Grahamstown: International Library of African Music.
This page was last modified 15.03.2019 09:30:22

This article uses material from the article Johnny Clegg from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.