Johnny Clegg

Musician, Now also offering Motivational Talk - Johannesburg
Johnny Clegg


By combining African music structures with Celtic folk music and international rock sounds, Clegg - together with Juluka, Savuka and as a solo artist - pioneered a new and unique sound, establishing himself as South Africa's biggest musical export.

JOHNNY CLEGG, born in Rochdale, England in 1953 was raised in his mother's native land of Zimbabwe before immigrating to South Africa at the age of nine. Johnny accompanied Mzila to all the migrant labour haunts, well equipped with his guitar roaming from hostels to rooftop shebeens.

Serving Johannesburg's insatiable appetite for cheap black labour,these men lived in a number of huge barrack-like hostels around Johannesburg. A reputation as a competent Zulu guitarist in the MASIKANDE (from the Afrikaans Musikant) tradition during this period was developed. Johnny's involvement with black musicians often led to him being arrested for trespassing on government property and for contravening the Group Areas Act (an apartheid law forcing different races to keep to their own residential and recreational areas). In this difficult and complex political landscape, Johnny managed to navigate a path, which enabled him to enter the hidden world of the Zulu migrant labourers.

Jonathan "Johnny" Clegg (born 7 June 1953) is a musician from South Africa, who has recorded and performed with his bands Juluka and Savuka. Sometimes called Le Zoulou Blanc ("The White Zulu"), he is an important figure in South African popular music history, with songs that mix Zulu with English lyrics, and African with various Western European (such as Celtic) music styles.

Johnny Clegg


Although he had no musical training as a young boy, he had made himself a variety of musical instruments; his favourite being a three stringed guitar fashioned out of a paraffin tin. He became extremely adept and well versed in Zulu street guitar music soon the reputation reached the ears of SIPHO MCHUNU, who had come up to Johannesburg in 1969 looking for work as a migrant Zulu worker whom was born in Kranskop, Natal, in 1951. Intrigued he challenged Johnny to a guitar competition, sparking off a friendship and musical partnership destined to alter the face of South African music. He further investigated this young white boy who danced and also played Zulu street music and looked him up at his apartment one day. Out of this meeting, a strong friendship developed as for the first time Johnny was playing with a street musician his own age. Johnny was sixteen and Sipho eighteen. A traditional Zulu dance team was later formed and found a vast outlet for his creative energies.

When finishing his schooling he went to University, graduating with a BA (Hons) in Social Anthropology and pursued an academic career for four years lecturing at the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Natal. They often worked together whenn subjects to racial abuse, threats of violence and police harassment. They were restricted by apartheid laws as to which places they could perform, which they had to stick to the street and private venues such as church and university halls.

A major recording deal was secured in 1976 where Johnny and Sipho had their first hit sing entitled, Woza Friday. The formation of JULUKA, meaning 'sweat' in Zulu, was in total contravention of the Cultural Segregation laws of the time, which emphasised the separation of language, race and culture. A period of development followed, during which Johnny worked on the concept of bringing together English lyrics and Western melodies with Zulu musical structures. (Juluka was the name of Sipho's favourite bull, because like all migrants, Sipho practiced some cattle farming in the rural areas). Their music was subjected to censorship and banning and their only way to access an audience was through live touring. In late 1979 their first album Universal Men was released.


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