Johnny Clegg On World Cafe
Johnny Clegg's music has been a powerful force for integration in a divided country, earning him the nickname "Le Zoulou Blanc" ("The White Zulu").
Growing up in culturally diverse but segregated Johannesburg, South Africa, Clegg developed a playing style that combined Zulu and Celtic folk traditions. In the '70s and '80s, Clegg's bands Juluka and Savuka brought black and white musicians together onstage, an illegal act under Apartheid. As a result, their music was banned from radio play and concerts put them at risk of arrest. But on the strength of their unique sound and powerful political messages, their music became a word-of-mouth hit.
In the late '80s, Clegg became famous throughout South Africa and beyond with "Asimbonaga," a song that became an anthem for the fight to release jailed anti-Apartheid activist (and future president) Nelson Mandela. Today, Clegg is one of the most famous South African musicians in the world. He recently wrapped up a U.S. tour in support of his latest solo album, Human, his first state-side release in 14 years.
"What kept us going is we knew we were making a new kind of music," Clegg tells host David Dye. Hear their conversation, plus a live performance, on today's World Cafe.