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SSouth African Tourism mourns the loss of one of South Africa’s greatest sons, Johnny Clegg, whose passing on 16 July 2019 has left the country bereaved.
Fondly known as the “White Zulu”, Clegg succumbed to pancreatic cancer, which he had been battling against since 2015. He was 66.
Clegg’s music was seen as a unifying force in South Africa, gaining popularity and prominence during apartheid. His songs – among them the popular tribute to the then incarcerated Nelson Mandela, Asimbonanga – dealt with racial divisions and issues of South African identity.
In a moment of surprise for the singer, at a performance in Frankfurt in 1999, Clegg was left astounded when Nelson Mandela surprised him on stage with the audience savouring the moment as well.
At the age of 17, Clegg formed his first band, Juluka, with Sipho Mchunu. His second interracial band, Savuka, formed with Dudu Zulu during the height of apartheid in 1986, started tearing down racial boundaries.
A self-proclaimed cultural activist, Clegg was a great ambassador for our country, whose fusion of mbaqanga and rock typified the South African experience.
This sound eventually made its way to the world stage, igniting wondrous visions of South Africa that later attracted travellers from around the world to our shores.
Throughout his career Clegg amassed a loyal legion of fans globally, with the French taking a particular liking to his musical talents and they dubbed him Le Zoulou Blanc, giving rise to his famous nickname, The White Zulu.
Clegg was the recipient of numerous international honours including the French government’s Knight of Arts and Letters in 1991, South Africa’s Order of Ikhamanga in 2012 and Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
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