Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fade-Outs: Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg & Juluka: Akanaki Nokunaka


Johnny Clegg & Savuka: One (Hu)'man One Vote


Johnny Clegg is a hero of mine, and not only for his music. In the 70s, he formed the first interracial band in South Africa, with all that entails. For starters, it was actually illegal under apartheid for the races to mingle, let alone form bands. Clegg, a white teen with an unstinting affection for Zulu music, persisted in learning Zulu guitar and dance from black musicians and artists, barely keeping one step ahead of the law. The biography of his early days is absolutely fascinating, describing how their popularity grew by word of mouth and in opposition to the South African government.

Clegg formed two bands: the first, Juluka, disbanded when his co-founder headed back to cattle farming. Clegg formed Savuka soon after. I'm including a song from each group. Needless to say, political themes dominate many of Clegg's songs. The first song I've featured is sung in Zulu, so I'm at a loss about the meaning. The second, though, is mostly English and the message is bold and straightforward. In the silly season of American elections, it's easy to forget the importance of democracy and the critical importance of the vote.

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