Heritage is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: (1) property that descends to an heir and this is also the first known use of the word, 13th century; (2) something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor; (3) something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth.
Here, in South Africa, it is the blend of our Rainbow Nation, of our diverse cultures, beliefs and traditions that we celebrate on the 24th of September, on Heritage Day.
I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart To hold and stand me by I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart Under African sky I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart I see the fire in your eyes I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart That beats my name inside
Johnny Clegg, Great Heart
News headlines enter and leave my mind as I drive through the morning traffic, my eyes focused on the row of blinking lights ahead of me.
Rarely a news headline catches my full attention, extracting me from the traffic, my mind searching for all the info it has on the subject.
Johnny Clegg, musician and activist, pioneer, anthropologist, dancer, songwriter and all-round South African past away on 16th of July 2019.
What was so special about the music of Johnny Clegg?
It was simply infectious, a spirited blend between Western pop and African Zulu rhythms.
In France Johnny Clegg was fondly called Le Zulu Blanc – the white Zulu.
Johnny Clegg, musician pioneer
Johnny Clegg was born in the UK, to an English father and Zimbabwean mother who later moved to South Africa and remarried.
It was Johnny’s stepfather, a crime reporter, who took Johnny into the townships of South Africa at an early age thus exposing Johnny to a different cultural perspective.
Johnny formed his first band, Juluka, at the age of 17, with Sipho Mchunu.
Later, Johnny Clegg was one of the first South African musicians to perform in a mixed-race musical performance – this would have been the ’70s. His music received ovations in Europe and America.
Johnny Clegg’s song Scatterlings of Africa was his first entry into the UK Charts. This song was also featured on the soundtrack to the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man.
Copper sun sinking low Scatterlings and fugitives Hooded eyes and weary brows Seek refuge in the night They are the scatterlings of Africa Each uprooted one On the road to Phelamanga Where the world began I love the scatterlings of Africa Each and every one
Johnny Clegg, Scatterlings of Africa
A live history lesson with Johnny Clegg:
In the video above South African Legend Nelson Mandela joins Johnny Clegg on stage during the rendition of Asimbonanga, a song written by Johnny Clegg about Mandela’s 27 years of incarceration.
Johnny Clegg has performed on all four of Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Aids Awareness Concerts in South Africa and in Norway.
Johnny Clegg’s passing away was two days ahead of the Mandela’s 101 years birthday anniversary.
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
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
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”
Johnny Clegg’s passing will leave an immense gap in both local and international musical and cultural scenes.