Hamba kahle, Johnny, and thank you for the music

Hamba kahle, Johnny, and thank you for the music

As my Cape Town based American friend Brandy, who is married to a Zimbabwean, posted on Facebook this morning:

“Half of my feed is South Africans mourning the huge loss of Clegg…the other half just continues on, not knowing what they’ve missed.”

My Facebook feed is also very clearly demarcated between South Africans, and those of us privileged to have lived there, united in grief at the death of Johnny Clegg.

And, as Brandy says, the rest of my friends don’t know what they’ve missed.

Johnny Clegg was born British, moved to Africa and, like all of us, fell in love with South Africa.

At a time when apartheid was firmly & cruelly in place, this amazing man learned to speak Zulu, and learned the music and dance of his adopted country.

Just by virtue of being with black Africans and performing in public with them, he contravened the apartheid laws and was arrested on several occasions. For those of you who don’t know about this amazing man, the link above will tell you more.

Johnny Clegg’s wonderful music was the background to so many of our long road trips in southern Africa.

We all of us loved his music, and the two times we saw him perform live were wonderful. For Mr. Clegg not only wrote and played and sang his iconic songs, he also used his concerts to explain and teach – for he was also an anthropologist. His concerts were unique. He’d stop all of a sudden to tell his audience something about the beat of a song, or the kind of instrument, or the legend behind an expression.

They were extraordinary experiences.

For those of you who think you haven’t heard his music…well, remember the film “George of the Jungle”? You do?

Remember the scene where they dance together round a fire in the jungle…check it out, and now you know a Johnny Clegg song.

My running playlist has lots of his wonderful music which I sing along to, trying to remember what little Zulu I learned when we lived in Jo’burg, happily belting out the words.

I have so many favourite songs, it’s difficult to choose just one.

But I think it might be Asimbonanga.

I join my African friends in sorrow.


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