Music

Legendary musician Johnny Clegg dead at 66

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Johnny Clegg
Johnny Clegg has died at the age of 66

Johnny Clegg, one of South Africas most celebrated musicians, has died at the age of 66.

Johnny had been battling pancreatic cancer and his long-time music manager, Ronny Quinn, announced the news of his death, revealing he had died peacefully at home in Johannesburg surrounded by his family.

Quinn said Johnny left deep footprints in the hearts of every person that considers himself or herself to be an African.

He added: He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity.

The British-born musician blended western and Zulu music, and his best known hit Asimbonanga, released in 1987, was dedicated to Nelson Mandela.

The song was one of the first to openly call for Mandelas release; Asimbonanga means we have not seen him in Zulu.

He was chosen to sing at Nelson Mandelas memorial service in 2013.

South African singer Johnny Clegg (C) and dancers of South African band Savuka
South African singer Johnny Clegg (C) and dancers of South African band Savuka (Picture: APF)

Born in Manchester, he moved to Zimbabwe with his mother as a child and as a teenager in Johannesburg was introduced to Zulu migrant workers from whom he began receiving guitar lessons.

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Johnny became known as a political activist, breaking the law to play music with black musicians in South Africas era of racial apartheid.

He first began playing music with Juluka, a mixed-race band, which he formed with the black guitarist, Sipho Mchunu but his music was banned from South African radio until 1994 when apartheid ended.

We had to find our way around a myriad of laws that prevented us from mixing across racial lines, he told AFP news agency in 2017.

He found fame across Europe and North America throughout the 1980s, and his song Dela was used in the Brendan Fraser film George Of The Jungle.

He was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and chose to limit the number of public performances while undergoing treatment.

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