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Jonathan Clegg

Birthdate: (63)
Birthplace: Rochdale, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of <private> Clegg and <private> Clegg (Braudo)
Husband of <private> Clegg
Father of <private> Clegg and <private> Clegg
Half brother of Dianne Pienaar

Managed by: Hatte Blejer on partial hiatus
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

    • <private> Clegg
    • <private> Clegg
    • <private> Clegg
    • <private> Clegg
    • <private> Clegg (Braudo)
    • <private> Pienaar
    • half sister

About Johnny Clegg

Johnny Clegg

Jonathan "Johnny" Clegg was born near Manchester, England in Bacup, Lancashire (or in Rochdale, sources differ) on June 7, 1953. His mother's parents were Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, who had settled in Rhodesia, where his mother was born. His father was a Royal Air Force pilot.

Clegg speaks fluent Zulu, married his wife in a traditional white Christian church ceremony ­ and also followed Zulu custom, "marrying" her again after she gave birth to their son, a ritual documented on the joyful Moliva.

"It wasn't a political act or a media event," Clegg says. "It was a celebration of my son's birth with the community I grew up with."

Johnny Clegg's son, Jesse, is today a musician also.

His father left when he was a baby and his mother took him back to Rhodesia in late 1953 and he was brought up there on his grandfather's farm. Interestingly, she had been a volunteer in the War of Independence in Israel in 1948 and after Clegg Senior left them, she first made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel with baby Jonathan, but soon left to return to her parents farm.

An important figure in South African music, he is sometimes called "The White Zulu". Clegg has recorded and performed with his bands Juluka and Savuka, with songs that mix Zulu with English lyrics, and African with various Western European (such as Celtic) music styles. He may be best known outside of South Africa for the song he wrote with his band Juluku, Asimbonanga (Mandela), which was on their 1987 album Universal Men and was popularized by Joan Baez.

Clegg learned Ndebele from the farm labourers on his grandparents' farm. When his mother moved to Johannesburg to work as a nightclub singer, he became interested in Zulu music and dance.

Charlie Mzale, from Kwazulu, became his teacher. "One evening my mother sent me out to do some shopping and I met Charlie, playing guitar on the corner. His skill was so amazing, I just asked him right out if he would be my teacher." He also introduced Clegg to the migrant workers' hostels where he was drawn to Zulu dance. "The hostel really came to life at weekends. That's when everybody would drink huge quantities of alcohol, listen to music, dance and fight. On Sundays there were contests between various Zulu dance teams." Clegg was only 14 or 15 years old and defied police and joined one of the hostels' dance teams and took part in the contests. During this time, his mother enrolled him in a Zulu language course at the University of Johannesburg.

Clegg also spent ten years as a student and teacher of anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand. In his first year, he studied social anthropology, politics, Zulu (where all the students were white and the lecturers were black), and phonetics and linguistics, which he dropped for English. “Zulu was the only one I passed,” he said in a recent interview. In 1971, he was the only white person in South Africa to write Zulu as a matric subject, passing with ease.

He formed the first prominent racially mixed South African band, Juluka, with gardener and Zulu musician Sipho Mchunu during the time of apartheid. It was illegal for racially mixed bands to perform in South Africa, so their first album Universal Men received no official radio air play, but it became a word-of-mouth hit.

Clegg spoke about the early days of Juluka in Jeremy Marre’s film Rhythm of Resistance:

"Originally, it was very difficult to play together in public, the laws being as they are: a black and a white not being allowed to play on a stage, or to a mixed audience. Things are starting to ease up slowly. … We’ve got a few sort of little hidden venues where everybody can come together and enjoy each others’ music." In an interview with Chris Stapleton that appeared in African All-Stars: The Pop Music of a Continent, Clegg reflected on the group’s success. "Juluka appeared at a time when black people were buying up records by the [American pop-soul group the] O’Jays in the hundreds and thousands. … We went back to our roots. A cult fashion began, with people playing roots music. You had something similar in 1970, and again in 1976 with the black-consciousness movement, an attempt to recapture and to stress African roots and origins."

Albums and CDs

  • Universal Men 1979 (with Juluka)
  • Third World Child 1987 (with Savuka)
  • One Life 2007
  • Human 2010

"Impi" - Johnny Clegg & Savuka


Impi! wo nans impi iyeza (A battle regiment is coming)

Obani bengathinta amabhubesi? (Who can touch the lions?)

All along the river Chelmsford's army lay asleep

Come to crush the children of Mageba

Come to exact the realm's price for peace

And in the morning as they saddled up to ride

Their eyes shone with the fire and the steel

The general told them of the task that lay ahead

To bring the people of the sky to heel


Mud and sweat on polished leather

Warm rain seeping to the bone

They rode through the season's wet weather

Straining for a glimpse of the foe

Hopeless battalion destined to die

Broken by the benders of kings

Vainglorious general and Victorian pride

Would cost him and eight hundred men their lives


They came to the side of the mountain

Scouts rode out to spy the land

Even as the realm's soldiers lay resting

Mageba's forces were at hand

And by the evening the vultures were wheeling

Above the ruins where the fallen lay

An ancient song as old as the ashes

Echoed as Mageba's warriors marched away


"Scatterlings Of Africa - Johnny Clegg & Savuka

Copper sun sinking low

Scatterlings and fugitives

Hooded eyes and weary brows

Seek refuge in the night


They are the scatterlings of Africa

Each uprooted one

On the road to Phelamanga

Where the world began

I love the scatterlings of Africa

Each and every one

In their hearts a burning hunger

Beneath the copper sun

Ancient bones from Olduvai

Echoes of the very first cry

"Who made me here and why

Beneath the copper sun?"

African idea

African idea

Make the future clear

Make the future clear


And we are the scatterlings of Africa

Both you and I

We are on the road to Phelamanga

Beneath a copper sky

And we are the scatterlings of Africa

On a journey to the stars

Far below, we leave forever

Dreams of what we were


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Johnny Clegg's Timeline

June 7, 1953
Rochdale, UK