Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Winter Months: December African Rain

Juluka: December African Rain


The well-known meteorologist Bob Geldof once noted, with uncanny prescience and unflinching confidence, that there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time. Or, indeed, any Christmas time. Unless you look for it on top of the Kilimanjaro. There will, however, be rain in some parts of Africa this Christmas time. It is not unheard of that there is some drizzle in Cape Town on Christmas Eve.

Rain is, of course, mostly welcome in Africa for agricultural reasons. And in the often unbearably humid KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa, it can bring relief from the climate’s discomforts. And that region is home to our featured band, Juluka, who in their 1984 song bid the precipitations of summer farewell — though the rain here serves as a metaphor.

The song is in fact a goodbye letter. Since it appears on Juluka’s 1984 Stand Your Ground (Greatest Hits) album — the band’s final release before it briefly regrouped in the 1990s — it probably is Johnny Clegg’s wistful send-off for his friend and Juluka co-founder Sipho Mchunu.

Like many Juluka songs, December African Rain formed part of the live repertoire of Clegg’s follow-up band, Savuka, and as such has become a minor South African classic. Both incarnations were outstanding live acts.

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