Something To Ponder
Home Is Where The Heart Is
Today, South Africans turned up in Sandton to pay their last respects to the music icon during a public memorial service. Johnny Clegg passed on last week after a long battle with cancer, but, that is not what he will be remembered for.
The Grammy nominated artist, was often referred to as the “White Zulu”. This is because in the height of the war against apartheid, John Clegg joined his voice of opposition to the system the only way he knew how, by singing against it. He was one of the few white artists to openly confront the apartheid government in the late 1970s and 1980s. He crafted hits inspired by Zulu and township harmonies, as well as folk music and other influences. One of his best-known songs was “Asimbonanga”, which means “We’ve never seen him” in Zulu. It refers to the South Africans during apartheid when images of the then-imprisoned Mandela were banned.
Born in England, of an Englishman and a jazz singer from Zimbabwe, which was then called Southern Rhodesia, Clegg first lived in Zimbabwe with his mother after the parents’ divorce while he was still a toddler. He came to South Africa as a teenager and lived in Johannesburg in the 1960s. While there, he met black migrant workers who were outlawed from the inner city. This was during the time the notorious Group Areas Act and other racial laws were used to govern the country.
The outgoing Clegg made many friends among the migrant workers and immersed himself in their lives. He learnt the Zulu language, how to play the maskandi guitar and the dance styles of his friends. At a concert in Johannesburg Clegg is quoted to have said, “All of these entries into traditional culture gave me a way of understanding myself, helping me to shape a kind of African identity for myself, and freed me up to examine another way of looking at the world.”
So much so did he immerse himself into the African culture that his music brought people of all races together and made such lasting impressions on the hearts of the people. For his love, he was imprisoned by the apartheid regime and his music banned. Still, he managed to reach people far and wide. Such was his passion that people of all races, became colour blind while it came to Johnny Clegg. He was a man much loved and his music will continue to minister to the people of South Africa and beyond for many years to come.
Johnny Clegg was more Southern African than some who are born and brought up here in this beautiful land. Those who refuse to see themselves as a part of this nation. Despite his skin colour, he was able to traverse the great divide of culture and language and become one with the people he found in the place that became home to him. Johnny Clegg did not regard himself as an immigrant but as much a Zulu as the next one. He sure was an example of how one can adopt wherever their heart finds contentment. Home is where the heart is, and Johnny Clegg’s was in South Africa, among his feet stomping Zulu brothers.
May his soul rest in peace!