Johnny Clegg, who has died of most cancers aged sixty-six, was a white singer-songwriter who became a country wide hero in South Africa by way of using song to defy the apartheid-technology segregation laws. He challenged the government with the aid of forming mixed-race bands, performing to both black and white audiences, and mixing Zulu impacts into songs that delivered him worldwide fulfillment. Known as the “white Zulu” or umlungu omnium (“the black-white man or woman”), he spoke fluent Zulu and was an energetic and skillful exponent of Zulu dance.
He became first-rate known for the poignant, stirring 1987 anthem Asimbonanga (We have no longer seen him), a tribute to Nelson Mandela, who became then nonetheless in prison, and to other key figures of the anti-apartheid warfare. Twelve years later, quickly after he stepped down as president, Mandela joined Clegg on stage in Frankfurt as he turned into appearing the song, in one of the maximum emotional scenes in political pop records.
Clegg loved a prolonged, a success and distinctly unusual career. He turned into born in Bacup, Lancashire, to an English father, Dennis Clegg, and a Rhodesian mom, Muriel, a jazz singer from a Lithuanian Jewish own family. They divorced whilst Johnny changed into nevertheless a toddler and his mom moved to Rhodesia, Israel and Zambia earlier than settling in South Africa. Muriel married Dan Pienaar, a journalist, and though the marriage ended while Johnny changed into 12, his stepfather had by means of then already taken him to satisfy migrant Zulu people in segregated black townships hardly ever visited via white humans.
He has become curious about Zulu way of life, and while nevertheless a teenager he dared to interrupt South Africa’s race legal guidelines via persevering with to meet black people to observe their guitar and dance patterns. He commenced operating as a university lecturer and studied anthropology at the colleges of Witwatersrand and Natal, but his actual enthusiasm became for the multiracial band Juluka (Zulu for sweat) that he fashioned in 1969 with Sipho Mchunu, a migrant worker and gardener who changed into impressed with his know-how. They aimed to break down barriers, mixing Zulu styles (and Clegg’s Zulu dance) with Celtic people influences and rock, and their very life turned into an assignment to apartheid.
Clegg informed me that the South African government had argued that the races needed to be apart “due to the fact we’re biologically unique, with special genes and cultures”, so he hit back with “incontrovertible, solid iron proof for the alternative”. Inevitably, members of his band were detained, stopped and searched, and on one occasion law enforcement officials came on a level with shotguns and emptied the corridor.
But Juluka succeeded, helped by means of their powerful Afro-pop songs that had been of direction banned from the country radio. They covered Impi, which treated the Zulu victory over the British on the battle of Isandlwana, and Scatterlings of Africa, a Top 50 hit in the UK. In 1983 Juluka toured inside the UK but faced new problems – the Musicians’ Union accused this multiracial anti-apartheid band of breaking the UN cultural boycott that banned the motion of bands between South Africa and the UK. Clegg turned into instructed he could be expelled from the union if he back to paintings in South Africa, and that all their profits from the British excursion needed to receive to the Anti-Apartheid Movement. He responded that it seemed that the union might be happier if the group disbanded and its participants became political refugees.
Juluka did disband in 1985 because Mchunu became fed up with traveling and desired to concentrate on cattle farming. Clegg now began a brand new band Savuka (“we have risen”) with the singer and dancer Dudu Zulu. It featured synthesizers and set out to “mix African music with worldwide rock sounds”. This changed into a time of growing repression and war of words in South Africa, which became meditated in Savuka’s extra without delay political songs, which Clegg would talk on the level.
Police raided a radio station that dared to play Asimbonanga, which became an anti-apartheid anthem and helped Clegg to end up an internationally famous person. The track becomes covered with the aid of Joan Baez and has become a big hit across continental Europe, in particular in France, in which Clegg and Savuka have become a chief business achievement, outselling even Michael Jackson inside the late Nineteen Eighties.
The UK becomes a distinctive rely. Clegg had the help of anti-apartheid corporations, together with the banned ANC (who advised me on the time that they seemed him as “innovative”), however, when he added Savuka to the United Kingdom he once more faced hostility from the Musicians’ Union. It changed into unsuccessful in trying to halt Savuka’s tour, however, due to the fact he has been expelled from the union it stopped Clegg and his band appearing on the Nelson Mandela seventieth Birthday Tribute staged at Wembley stadium (with an international TV audience of masses of millions) in June 1988. The show’s manufacturer, Tony Hollingsworth, advised me: “If it weren’t for the union, he’d had been on.”