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Johnny Clegg, South African Musician and Activist, Dead at 66

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South African musician and anti-apartheid activist Johnny Clegg has died from pancreatic cancer, his manager Roddy Quin confirmed on Facebook. He was 66. “Johnny leaves deep foot prints in the hearts of every person that considers him/herself to be an African,” Quin wrote. “He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity. An anthropologist that used his music to speak to every person. With his unique style of music he traversed cultural barriers like few others. In many of us he awakened awareness.”

Johnny Clegg was born in England in 1953 and moved to South Africa as a child. He was best known throughout his career for his groundbreaking multiculturalism. As a teenager in Johannesburg, Clegg studied Zulu-style song and dance in defiance of the Group Areas Act, a law that segregated residential and business sections by race. Alongside guitarist Sipho Mchunu, Clegg founded the group Juluka which combined Clegg’s Celtic heritage with traditional Zulu styles like mbaqanga. Multi-racial and genre-fluid, Juluka was subjected to censorship during the time’s white minority rule.

After Juluka disbanded in 1985, Clegg cofounded Savuka, whose 1987 hit “Asimbonanga” became an anti-apartheid anthem. Its title translates to “We’ve never seen him” in Zulu and refers to the period when images of Nelson Mandela were banned.

In 2017, two years after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Clegg embarked on what he called “The Final Journey,” performing to audiences across the world.

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