South Africa bids farewell to ‘White Zulu’ Johnny Clegg

FILE – Singer Johnny Clegg, right, perfoms with the Soweto Gospel Choir at Ellispark stadium in Johannesburg, Dec. 1, 2007.

South Africans bade an emotional farewell Friday to singer Johnny Clegg, who defied apartheid with his unique fusion of African and Western culture and sounds.

Ten days after Clegg succumbed to a long battle with cancer, hundreds of fans gathered at a memorial service in Johannesburg where fellow musicians paid homage to the “White Zulu” by performing some of his best-loved tunes.

“Whenever I saw Johnny Clegg I saw myself. I saw our culture, I saw an African culture. I saw an African in him,” said Nathi Mthethwa, South African Arts and Culture Minister..

Clegg’s son Jesse took to stage with the Soweto Gospel Choir to perform a song he wrote with his father, entitled: “I’ve been looking”.

“In 2017, my dad and I wrote a song together. It’s a song about the things in life that you can’t replace – to my dad that was his family,“said Jesse Clegg, Johnny Clegg’s son

“Despite his successes, he regarded being a dad as his highest duty,” Jesse said.

The 66 year old artist, popularly known as White Zulu, is fondly remembered for his anti-aparteid lyrics and his involvement with black musicians which often saw him arrested during Apartheid. It was to thisend that John Kani delivered his moving eulogy.

Clegg, whose best-known track was arguably Asimbonanga (We Haven’t Seen Him), written for then-imprisoned anti-apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela, saw his work repeatedly censored by the white minority regime.

Born in Lancashire, Britain, Clegg moved to Johannesburg with his mother when he was six years old.

The memorial closed with more than 30 South African musicians performing his hit “The Crossing”, in which Clegg sang of “coming home”.