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Music / Johnny Clegg

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"Hold me close, Africa
Don't let me go, Africa
Let me grow old, Africa
Remember me"
—"Orphans of the Empire"

"African music, wherever you're from
You'll never lose it — the rhythm is strong"
—"Umbaqanga Music"

Johnny Clegg (June 7, 1953 - July 16, 2019) was an English-South African musician.

He was the leader of two now-disbanded bands, "Juluka", meaning "sweat", and "Savuka", meaning "we have risen" or "we are victorious". He later continued touring with a different band, which was either nameless or simply named "The Johnny Clegg Band". His music is an unparalleled type of Western pop/rock combined with traditional Zulu music.

While never achieving high popularity in the US, his music was considered controversial in the South Africa of The Apartheid Era for Clegg was vocally opposed to the Apartheid, and is well-liked today. He also has a huge following in France, of all places, where he is known as "Le Zoulou Blanc" ("The White Zulu").

His studio album discography with the three bands is as follows:

  • Juluka:
    • Universal Men (1979)
    • African Litany (1981)
    • Scatterlings (1982)
    • Ubuhle Bemvelo (1982)
    • Work For All (1983)
    • Stand Your Ground (1984)
    • Musa Ukungilandela (1984)
    • The International Tracks (1984)
    • Ya Vuka Inkunzi - The Bull Has Risen (Name in South Africa)/Crocodile Love (Name Internationally) (1997)

  • Savuka:
    • Third World Child (1987)
    • Shadow Man (1988)
    • Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World (1990)
    • Heat, Dust and Dreams (1993)
    • Live and Rarities (1994)
    • In My African Dream (1994)

  • Solo:
    • Third World Child (1985)
    • New World Survivor (2002)
    • One Life (2006)
    • Human (2010)

His music and other works provide examples of:

  • African Chant: Justified, considering it is African music. Varies from a few words to entire albums.
  • After the End: "Tough Enough", and possibly "Missing" and "When The System Has Fallen".
  • Album Title Drop: "Foreign Nights (Working Dog In Babylon)" serves as this for Heat, Dust and Dreams.
  • Anti-Love Song: "High Country", a song about love and marriage falling apart.
  • And This Is for...: Several songs have a dedication. Among them are "The Crossing (Osiyeza)" (For Dudu), "Bullets for Bafanzane" (For our family friend Bafanzane), "Foreign Nights (Working Dog in Babylon)" (For Jenny), and "The Revolution Will Eat Its Children" (For Uncle Bob).
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "Tough Enough"
    Clegg: Picture the end of a cycle
    Here's the fire from Heaven
    There's a tired planet closing down
    No more news at 11.
  • Artistic License: Savuka's first concert in France was at a jazz festival.
    Clegg: We don't know what the heck we had to do with jazz, but of course we said we'd do it.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Almost all his songs are either in English, Zulu, or both.
  • The Congo Wars: "Congo" references several of the problems left in their aftermath. The song itself was meant as a pick-me-up to those in the DRC.
    Freedom is food to eat
    Good strong boots on your feet
  • Cool Old Guy: He toured just as often toward the end of his life as he had earlier in his career.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener:
    • "Colours of Change", which features a radically different techno opener.
    • "Foreign Nights (Working Dog in Babylon)" opens with a guitar solo that definitely qualifies.
  • Darker and Edgier: Work For All began to talk about problems in a more direct manner than the albums before it. Among them are the common violence in the KZN and South Africa in general ("Bullets for Bafazane", "Gunship Ghetto", "Mdantsane (Mud Coloured Dusty Blood)"), the decision between self and country ("December African Rain"), water shortages ("Walima'mabele"), protests ("Mana Lapho"), internal displacement ("Baba Nango", "Mdantsane (Mud Colored Dusty Blood)") and the fight for work ("Work For All").
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: His songs generally don't include any profanity at all. There are only two swears in any of them, one in English and one in Zulu.
  • Lighter and Softer: Savuka in comparison to Juluka. The music got more upbeat and less gritty.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Thamela (Die Son Trek Water)". While the music sounds upbeat, and one without either a translation or knowledge of Afrikaans wouldn't be able to tell the difference, the song is actually about a soldier drinking heavily while missing a loved one. The ending implies that he has completely given up hope.
    • "Touch the Sun" is one of the most upbeat songs Clegg ever wrote. It also happens to be about his sister, who recently died of cancer at 38.
  • Mood Whiplash: "High Country" switches between a calm love song and a loud song of destruction every stanza.
  • New Sound Album: The Savuka sound is more heavily-influenced by Western music than Juluka was.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Universal Men", "Love in the Time of Gaza"
  • Noodle Incident: The inspiration for "Bullets for Bafazane" was kept one for a while.
    Clegg: After you've been writing songs for long enough, you begin to write about whatever crazy incident happens. It's a bit of a long story.
  • One-Woman Song: "Deliwe", "Thoko","Tholakele" and "Zodwa". Technically "Magumede" too, although it's a tribal song and not romantic.
  • PrecisionHStrike: From "Gunship Ghetto". While nothing bad in comparison to plenty of other music, it's still a bit surprising to those used to the Gosh Dang It to Heck!.
    Crazy boy your sister's crying
    Tell me where the hell you been
  • Protest Song: Protest Band, really. Interracial bands were illegal in South Africa when Clegg first rose to prominence. Naturally, plenty of protest songs were made. Most notably "Siyayilanda", "Bullets for Bafazane", "Mana Lapho (Stand Your Ground)", "Work for All", "Gunship Ghetto", "Mdantsane (Mud Coloured Dusty Blood)", "Asimbonanga (Mandela)", "Third World Child", "Berlin Wall", "Talk to the People", "Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World", "One (Hu)'man, One Vote", and "Inevitable Consequence of Progress".
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "One (Hu)'man, One Vote" was written in memory of the assassination of anti-apartheid activist Dr David Webster, which took place when Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World was being recorded.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Of sorts. While Sipho Mchunu co-sings many of the Juluka songs, he's never actually billed for a specific part of any of them except for "Thandazani"
  • Take That!: The entire concept of a racially mixed band singing protest songs is akin to a middle finger in the eyes of the apartheid regime.
    • "The Revolution Will Eat Its Children" has a more explicitly-stated target. It was aimed at "Uncle Bob", aka Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe since 1987.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: One half of the story of "Warsaw 1943 (I Never Betrayed the Revolution)".
  • Title Track: "Universal Men", "African Litany", "Scatterlings of Africa", "Work for All", "Third World Child", "African Shadow Man", "Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World", "In My African Dream", "Crocodile Love", "New World Survivor".
  • Where The Hell Is Phelamanga: Of all the obscure places mentioned in songs, this is the only only one that doesn't actually exist. It's mentioned in the song "Scatterlings of Africa" in the line "On the road to Phelamanga". It's generally presumed to refer to a place where all truth comes from and prevails, akin to a type of Heaven. Clegg has gone on record saying "[Phelamanga is] somewhere at the end of an illusion".
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Uthando Luphelile". To the point that some of the English lyrics can't be transcribed.