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Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg at la fête de l'Humanité, France
Background information
Birth name Jonathan Clegg
Also known as Johnny Clegg
Le Zoulou Blanc
Born June 7, 1953 (1953-06-07) (age 56)
Origin Rochdale, Lancashire, England
Genres Mbaqanga, Afro-pop
Instruments Vocal, guitar, concertina
Years active 1980-
Labels Capitol Records
Associated acts Juluka, Savuka
Former members
Sipho Mchunu(Juluka,Dudu Mntowaziwayo Ndlovu(Savuka)

Jonathan "Johnny" Clegg (born 7 June 1953) is a musician from South Africa, who has recorded and performed with his bands Juluka and Savuka. 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 European (such as Celtic) music styles.


Early life and career

Clegg was born in Rochdale, Lancashire, England. Already in his youth, Johnny Clegg, a white, English-speaking person with what he called a "secular Jewish" upbringing in the UK, Israel, Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), Zambia, and South Africa, became interested in Zulu street music and took part in traditional Zulu dance competitions.

As a young man, in the early stages of his musical career, he combined his music with the study of anthropology, a subject which he also taught for a while at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where he was influenced, among others, by the work of David Webster, a social anthropologist who was assassinated in 1989.

Clegg formed the first racially mixed South African band, Juluka, with gardener and Zulu musician Sipho Mchunu. Because it was frowned upon (although not actually forbidden by law) for racially mixed bands to perform in South Africa during the apartheid era, their first album Universal Men[1] received no air play on the state owned SABC, but it became a word-of-mouth hit.

Juluka's / Clegg'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-80's. Even more explicit was the later Savuka album Third World Child in 1987, with songs like "Asimbonanga" ("We haven't seen him"), which called for the release of Nelson Mandela, and which called out the names of three representative martyrs of the South African liberation struggle - Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, and Neil Aggett.


Juluka were able to tour in Europe, and had two platinum and five gold albums, becoming an international success. Juluka was disbanded in 1986, when Mchunu was asked by his father to return home and herd the family goats, although Mchunu made some solo recordings afterwards. Clegg went on to form his second inter-racial band, Savuka, continuing to blend African music with European, especially Celtic, influences. The Savuka albums Shadow Man (which sold 250,000 copies within a week after its release went on to sell more than 1,000,000 copies in France alone)[2], and "Cruel Crazy, Beautiful World" were dealing with more romantic topics, including "Cruel Crazy Beautiful World", where a father gives a message to his son, "Dela" where the essence of love is explored, and more politically focused songs, such as "Warsaw 1943" and "One (Hu)'man one vote" which go back to political messages. Third World Child and Shadow Man occupied 1st and 2nd position respectively in France and became the most successful foreign band in France and Shadow Man topped the charts in Montréal, Québec, Canada.[2] At the height of the band's success in 1988, Michael Jackson had to cancel his show in Lyon, France, as he attracted a smaller audience than Johnny Clegg and Savuka.[2] Their last album Heat, Dust And Dreams was nominated for a Grammy Award for best album in the category of World Music.[2]


Briefly reunited with Mchunu in the mid 1990s, Clegg reformed Juluka and toured throughout the world including a tour of the USA in 1996, on which King Sunny Ade was the opening act.

The name Juluka is based on the Zulu word for "sweat", and Savuka is based on the Zulu word for "we have risen" or "we have awakened".[citation needed]

His song Scatterlings of Africa was featured on the sound track to the 1988 academy award wining film Rain Man starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.

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 1992 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.[citation needed] Jimmy Buffett recorded "Great Heart" for his 1988 album Hot Water. 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 [3].

Clegg and his band often make an international tour during May-August (South African winter). However, the tours are usually limited to France and surrounding countries.[citation needed] In June 2004, Johnny Clegg toured North America for the first time in over eight years, doing 22 concerts in one month. Even though they had no albums for sale in North America during those eight years, and no significant media coverage, they filled most of their venues.[citation needed]

Clegg returned to North America with his band in July 2005, with dates booked throughout the U.S. and Canada. His new album One Life was remixed at Real World Studios in Bath, England, and released on October 30th, 2006 in the UK.[citation needed]

In 2008 Clegg's son, Jesse Clegg, displaying a style markedly different from that of his father, released his debut album called "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.[4]


Academic Writings of Johnny Clegg

  • Jonathan Clegg, 1981. "Ukubuyisa Isidumbu", "Bringing back the body": An examination of the ideology of vengeance in the Msinga and Mpofana Rural Locations, 1822-1944. In: Phil Bonner (ed), Working Papers in Southern African Studies, Volume 2, Johannesburg: Ravan Press
  • Jonathan Clegg, 1981. The Music of Zulu Immigrant Workers in Johannesburg: A Focus on Concertina and Guitar. In: Andrew Tracey (ed) Papers presented at the Symposium on Ethnomusicology. Grahamstown: International Library of African Music.
  • Jonathan Clegg, 1982. Towards an understanding of African Dance: The Zulu Isishameni Style. In: Andrew Tracey (ed) Papers read at Second Symposium on Ethnomusicology, 24-26 September 1981, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. Grahamstown: Institute of Social and Economic Research.



Studio albums

Live albums

  • 1986: The Good Hope Concerts
  • 1994: Live And Rarities (Savuka)
  • 2003: A South African Story - Live At The Nelson Mandela Theatre (Johnny Clegg)
  • 2003: Best of Live (Johnny Clegg)


  • 2003: Live! and more...
  • 2006: Johnny Clegg Live at the Nelson Mandela Theatre


Year Title Chart positions Album
US Hot 100 US Modern Rock US Mainstream Rock UK
1990 "Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World" - 27 - - Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World
1987 "Scatterlings of Africa" - - - 75 Scatterlings of Africa


External links


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