13 February 2012 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Great heart, great art

An iconic South African musician; powerful sentiments infused with hope; and how art and music can inspire.

All the hype around Valentine’s Day made me think of hearts. Not the 'tired, commercialised, opportunistic rip-off' hearts that the Guardian’s talking about. Rather, hearts let loose on the world. Inspiring hearts. Brave hearts. Tender hearts. And Great Heart, Johnny Clegg’s iconic song from the album Third World Child.

I love Johnny Clegg and I love this song. I found this version of it online. The explanatory blurb describes this recording as 'a historic gathering of top South African artists' who came together to perform for the music video, including Arno Carstens, Karen Zoid, Chris Chameleon, Danny K, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse and Clegg himself.  The single was produced by Michael Canfield in support of the Starfish Greathearts Foundation, an international development charity that assists thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children across South Africa. Each of the artists involved also provided a track on a compilation CD called Spirit of the Great Hearts and all sales of the CD (including 100% of the artists’ royalties on the Great Heart track) go directly to the charity.

As an anthropologist, musican, artist and activist, his work is always energetic, passionate and inspiring.

Here’s the original of the song. Whichever version you prefer, the sentiment the song expresses is a powerful 1, infused with hope. It couldn’t be a better theme song for the work of the Starfish Greathearts Foundation. Great art, great heart.

Here are the lyrics:

The world is full of strange behaviour Every man has to be his own   saviour I know I can make it on my own if I try But I’m searching for a   great heart to stand me by Underneath the african sky A great heart to   stand me by  Chorus: 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 Sometimes I feel that you really   know me Sometimes there’s much you can show me There’s a highway of   stars across the heavens The whispering song of the wind in the   grass There’s the rolling thunder across the savanna A hope and dream at   the edge of the sky And your life is a story like the wind Your life is a   story like the wind Chorus Guka ‘mzimba (body grow old) Sala   ‘nhliziyo (but heart remain behind)

 

Listening to the song reminds me of a) what an amazing artist Johhny Clegg is b) how art and music can inspire c) what a delightful thing it is to live in the world, if you’re open to it and curious about it…

Clegg is the original Great Heart. As well as being an amazing musician, he was also 1 of the first white musicians to mix Zulu and English lyrics and take part in traditional Zulu dance competitions, earning him the nickname of the White Zulu. He formed the first mixed South African inter-racial band, Jaluka. When this band split up, Johnny Clegg formed his 2nd mixed inter-racial band Savuka (meaning “we have risen” or “we have awakened”). He’s continued creating amazing music over the years and has become a cultural ambassador for South Africa. As an anthropologist, musican, artist and activist, his work is always energetic, passionate and inspiring. His son, Jesse Clegg, is also an amazing South African musician. You can see father and son singing Great Heart together (2 minutes in).

I’d also be curious to know if there a link to Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Great Heart”?

I’m lucky to have several Great Hearts in my life. And on Valentine’s day   to one in particular  you know who you are:

Guk a ‘mzimba (body grow old) Sala ‘nhliziyo (but heart remain behind)

Category: Arts & Entertainment

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