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'Evening, Watchers.  Hope the week wasn't too hard on you, and that the weekend offers some pleasures.  Sorry I'm late -- I was desperately trying to find some now-invisible blogs on African migrant workers... (and, arrgh! HTML errors).  In any case, there's a beautiful crescent moon out there.  Please take a moment to enjoy it.

I want you to meet my musical and spiritual inspiration, Johnny Clegg.  

Johnny Cleggis one of South Africa’s most celebrated sons. He is a singer, a songwriter, a dancer, anthropologist and a musical activist...

Clegg was born in Bacup, near Rochdale, Lancashire, to an English father and Rhodesian mother. 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.

More over the jump.

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 illegal for racially mixed bands to perform in South Africa during the apartheid era, their first album Universal Men 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 Savukaalbum 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. (Links added.)

As a result, Clegg and other band members were arrested several times and concerts routinely broken up.

The first song I ever heard by Clegg is the energetic One (Hu)'man One Vote.  I was won over instantly, and immediately fell in love with the Zulu language.  But Clegg's albums weren't yet available in America (at least not that I could find).  So it was a matter of catching him at various broadcast concerts calling for the release of Nelson Mandela.

He writes songs on so many subjects (as you can see, I've had a hard time winnowing down the list) but to me, his most moving writing is about the exhaustion of a continuous struggle.

Dance Across the Centuries
[Sorry: no video]
It's a world of "hang on to what you've got"
It's a world of "do or die"
I know you never take it serious
And you keep your head up high
I know you'd like to speak to the manager
Oh baby, so would I
I never made this crazy world anyway
I never made this one way ride

For some life offers nothing more
Than a struggle or a war
A magnum hidden in your drawer
You walk away... you want to
Dance across the centuries
Dance across the sea of time
Dance a living memory oh
Dance you want to let your spirit shine

Every dog wants to be a fat cat
Every mouse to be a dog
It's not easy, I can tell you
Trying to see through the fog
Funny how some of us live it up
While others just survive
I know you do what you can
But all you ever do is time


Yaguka lenkunzi emnyama
(The black bull has grown old)
Kade ihlaba ithetha amalala
(Long and well it has fought and argued)
Yaguka lenkunzi emnyama
(The black bull has grown old)
Guka 'sithembe kade wawudlelwa
(My gating mat grows old, well has it served me)
(All things must pass and change)

I don't want to post too many lyrics, as they'll take up a hell of a lot of space, but in a few cases, where the words are essential, I'll beg your indulgence.

Orphans of the Empire
In ships they came from Europe, across the salt sea
Come for to build and raise a colony
And in the jungle green their citadels did gleam
In tribute and homage to the old country
And soon their children grew and promised to be true
Orphans of an Empire their destiny

Hold me close Africa
Fill my soul Africa
Let me grow old, Africa
Let me in
Fill my soul Africa
Don't let me go, Africa
Let me grow old, Africa
And remember me

Imperial gentleman, he built mighty walls
And in the jungle afternoon he plays polo when he's bored
He sips a gin and tonic and tells you confidentially
He wishes he understood the indigenous
But the shadows they are lengthening and the sun it must set
Bewildered and confused he scurries home to his bed


He cannot understand the soldiers all at hand
For with guns you cannot fight a foe that dwells within
But the battle had begun and a soldier he's become
Who can sing his litany?
It's a beggarman's prayer or a string on the wind
Will that be all that lingers on the memory?

And who will remember that African December?
When he knelt before the colors and swore to do or die?
And he kissed his frightened lover, beneath the glowing embers
Of that dark, strange heaven, that ancient sky
Now he's gone to dust, just like all good soldiers must
But the mournful mutter of the battlefield still lingers in the air

So it's farewell sweet Caroline, farewell Elizabeth
Goodbye gentle ladies of the old order
And farewell to your islands carved upon this continent
Some England, some France and some Germany
Soon you will return to that dream across the sea
Cause here is no more honey left for tea


Third World Child.  (Dreadful quality recording -- sorry: all I could find.)
Bits of songs and broken drums
Are all he could recall
So he spoke to me
In a bastard tongue
Carried on the silence of the guns

It’s been a long long time
Since they first came
And marched through our village
They taught us to forget our past
And live the future in their image

They said
’you should learn to speak a little bit of english
Don’t be scared of a suit and tie.
Learn to walk in the dreams of the foreigner
-- I am a third world child

The outworld’s dreams are the currency
That grip the city streets
I live them out
But I have my own
Hidden somewhere deep inside of me

In between my father’s fields
And the citadels of the rule
Lies a no-man’s land which I must cross
To find my stolen jewel.

They said
’you should learn to speak a little bit of english
Maybe practise birth control
Keep away from controversial politics
So to save my third world soul

They said
’you should learn to speak a little bit of english
Don’t be scared of a suit and tie.
Learn to walk in the dreams of the foreigner
-- I am a third world child

Wo! ilanga lobunzima
Nalo liyashona
Ukuthini asazi
Mus’ ukukhala

(oh! we don’t know when this sun of hardship will set.
Don’t cry, my child.)

Bits of songs and broken drums
Are all he could recall
But the future calls his name
Out loud
Carried on the violence of the guns

[I can speak a little bit of English
I am the seed that has been sown;
I am the fire that has been woken
I am a Third World Child] -- (added; missing from his lyrics)

Inevitable Consequence of Progress (No video.)
Chopper standing in the clearing, fueled and ready to ride
Captain in the doorway, telling us to step inside
last minute check, all weapons set
parachute and right sight
going to drop in on the jungle
and grease some stone age tribe
The 'sarge jokes about taking out the last link
to his troubled past
as we hit the canopy. I feel a shadow across my heart

Inevitable Consequence of Progress --
is what he said to me
inevitable Consequence of Progress --
in the judgment of history
inevitable Consequence of Progress --
going to change your destiny
And I felt the sun, sun, sun, the Son, Son, Son
going down on me

The pilot pulled the chopper around
and we got into position
we made all the right moves and
there wasn't any real opposition
Crazy tribesmen shooting arrows at the 'ship overhead
Such a weird spectacle
the 'sarge he smiled and he said
"There's a new world coming and
there ain't no place for them--
Don't feel sad son for what history has condemned."

Inevitable Consequence of Progress --
is what he said to me
inevitable Consequence of Progress --
in the judgment of history
inevitable Consequence of Progress --
going to change your destiny
And I felt the sun, sun, sun, the Son, Son, Son
had gone down on me

I've been waiting for the clouds to clear
I've been waiting for the dawn
I've been waiting for the fear to subside
and for the sun to make me warm again

"Live and let live" -- step into real life,
step into the lifeline boy

When the System Has Fallen  (No video for this, but it's last verse is a lesson I hope to learn.)
Sweat in the heat for days on end
waiting for you to come again
to hear the words spill from your lips
"the system has fallen"

Mass action on the radio
like a great river ebbs and flows
carrying us to the final close
when the system has fallen

I know that you are tired and weary
seen too much to believe any more
but we have to keep moving down that long road
if we want to reach that far shore.

We're on our way home to find our freedom
and I'm on my way home to find you my friend
where we can stand in the light of the people
and breathe life into the land again.
Siyathemba, siyathemba kuwena nkosi
Sizo fika ema khaya
[We are still hoping and we still believe
we will reach our final destination]

Hey! You! if you dance in the shadows
the shadows will cover you
and paralyse all the hope in your eyes
that you'll need to bring you shining through
Could you believe that I am your brother?
could you believe that I am your friend?
and although I don't speak the language you speak
we could be closer than you have ever dreamt.


Ngizobeka phansi uku zondana kwami
[I will put down my hatred]
Ngizobeka phansi izenzo zegazi
[I will lay down my acts of revenge]
Ngizoxolelana nezitha zami wemadoda
[I will forgive my enemies]
Sizofika emakhaya
[and will reach our homes]
I'm on my way, on my way, on my way
to find you my friend.

Some of the variety of Clegg:
Daughter of Eden



Boy Soldier

Utshani Obulele (There's a Zulu version that's far more beautiful, but it's not around on video; this one, curiously, is attached to a wildlife segment.)

Listen to the amazing energy of Moliva, about his Zulu wedding.  Who came, who said what, who brought what -- a terrifically joyous song.  Lyrics (Zulu) and translation at his site, linked below.  "On February 14, 1988 he married Jenny (a professional designer). In September of that year they were married again in a traditional Zulu ceremony."

And the song for which I named my three-year-old pooch:  Jongosi, written for South Africa's rugby team (and oddly absent from "Invictus," which used only by Clegg a weak version of "The Crossing" by a bland chorus).

One of Clegg's most devastating songs is The Crossing (Osyiyeza), written in memory of his percussionist, Dudu Mntowaziwayo Ndlovu, who "...died from 9 bullets in the back from an AK47 on a dusty track near Greytown in KwaZuluNatal where he lived. The general feeling there was that because he had become so well known he would be able to calm things down or even bring a resolution to the 7 year taxi war. Johnny Clegg dedicated... "Osiyezo" to him."

And one of his most exhilarating love songs: to the strength of the people of South Africa:
Rolling Ocean.  I have to add that this is a truly terrible video of an uninspired live performance, but it's all that's out there.*

Rolling Ocean
You are the rolling ocean
You are the mighty sea
You are the breath that brings each new day to me
You are what you are, you are
You be what you are, you be what you are

Some came to conquer
Some came to understand
Some came to live their lives as best they can
Me, I looked up at the stars to find my way
But I was young and I got them mixed up
And so forgot my name
As I tried to remember you were standing next to me
While other came seeking power
You, you had come to set them free


Women of salt and earth
They tell the same story
They saw you walking wounded
Wearing rags of glory
And when you rejoiced they saw you smiling at your rejoicing
When you wept they saw you smiling at your weeping
When you smiled they saw you smiling at your smiling
And you said "That's the way I've survived these years of dust and


Suffer little children
Suffer sister, brother too
Suffer mother, father
That's all the world can promise you
In our hearts we feel it
A mighty dream is coming true
Hold on and we'll dream it
Keep it up we're going to push it through
Don't give it up, don't give it up

Clegg goes underground into a gold mine in Africa.

Clegg discusses his music and albums (here's a video of the incident he describes with Mandela: Asimbonanga)

Clegg discusses sports, and the political implications thereof.

Another interview in France... and for those of you who speak French, here's an interviewabout his new album, "Human".  (Wish I could understand it!)

Clegg has written many songs reflecting world events past and present: Berlin Wall; Warsaw 1943 (sorry, no video); and Impi about the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879.


International Awards
1988 The Mayor’s Office of Los Angeles Award: For the promotion of racial harmony
1988 Le Victoire French Music Industry Award for biggest International record album sold in France between 1987 and 1988 (1.3 million albums)
1989 Honorary Citizen of the town of Angouleme, France
1990-1991 French Music Industry Award for the biggest selling world music album in France
1990 Humanitarian Award: Secretary of State of Ohio, USA
1991 Awarded the CHEVALIER DE L’ORDRE DES ARTS ET DES LETTRES (Knight of Arts and Letters) by the French Government
1993 GRAMMY AWARD nomination for best World Music Album (Heat, Dust and Dreams)
1994 Billboard Music Award Best World Music Album
1996 Medal of Honour - city of Besancon
1998 Kora Awards: Best African Group
2004 Mayoral Medal of Honour from Mayor of Lyon, France, for outstanding relations between the people of Lyon and South Africa
2004 Medal of Honour – Consul General of the Province of Nievre
2004 Medal of Honour – Consul General of the Province of L’Aisne

South African Awards
1986 Scotty Award : Master Music Maker
1987 Communication Contribution Award
1987 The Autumn Harvest Music Personality Award
1988 OK TV Best Pop Music Award
1988 CCP Record Special Award : In recognition of exceptional achievement in promotion of South African music internationally
1989 Radio 5 - Loud & Proud Award - South African Music Ambassador of the Year
1990 FOYSA Award (Four Outstanding South Africans) Junior Chamber of Commerce
1999 Avanti Award - Best Music Video "Crocodile Love"

Honorary Degree Citation: Johnny Clegg, from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, SA

Some writings by Clegg:
Posts to a discontinued blog  
(And this is why I was hunting without result for his old posts on his work with migrant workers.)

Lyrics to most of the songs and videos discussed here are here, at Clegg's website.

Now, contrary to appearances, I am a realist.  Don't knock yourselves out trying to listen to every song.  Work your way through at will.  Check out the related videos on youtube.  Have a good time with him.  Or... often... a heartbreaking time.  But all for the best cause in the world.

And, as usual, feel free to bring your own contributions.

Oh -- one last thing: I heard Phil was in charge of food and drink this evening, so if your glasses or plates are empty... please see him.

NOTE:  Just found a full concert video, which my system is having a hard time getting through, but as far as I can tell, there's a far better version of "Rolling Ocean" that opens the concert.

Originally posted to Yasuragi on Fri Dec 10, 2010 at 04:25 PM PST.

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