RIP Johnny Clegg

Staff Writer | Jul 17, 2019
Johnny Clegg, singer, dancer and anthropologist, has died at 66.

Clegg was a pioneer in creating a unique blend of Zulu and European music styles, and became an international star famously referred to by French fans as ‘Le Zoulou blanc’ – the white Zulu.

His bands, Juluka and Savuka, supported him for many years until, more recently, he developed a solo act. He occasionally reunited with his earlier band partners.

Clegg encountered Zulu migrant workers' music and dance as a teenager in the northern suburbs Johannesburg. Under the tutelage of Charlie Mzila, a flat cleaner by day and musician by night, Clegg mastered Zulu and the maskandi guitar and isishameni dance styles of the migrants. 

His involvement with black musicians during apartheid often led to arrests for trespassing on government property and for contravening the Group Areas Act. 

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

In 1991, he was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (Knight of Arts and letters) by the French government. In 2015, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Clegg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015.

 

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