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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

South African music legend Johnny Clegg dies after battle with cancer

His manager called the singer 'an anthropologist who used his music to speak to every person'
South African singer Johhny Clegg has died at the age of 66, his manager said, on July 16, 2019. AFP / Fadel SENNA

South African musician Johnny Clegg died at the age of 66 at his home in Johannesburg on Tuesday, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Clegg was diagnosed with the illness in 2015 but continued to tour and perform globally.

The musician's manager Roddy Quin confirmed Clegg's death to South Africa’s state broadcaster Channel 24 on Tuesday.

"Johnny leaves deep footprints in the hearts of every person that considers him/herself to be an African," Mr Quin said.

"He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity.

“He was an anthropologist who 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."

Clegg was not known to shy away from his country’s politics in his music and was an ardent anti-apartheid activist.

The singer played with his bands Julua and Savuka, but as played as a solo act, mixing Zulu and English lyrics.

One of his best-known songs, Asimbonanga, means “We’ve never seen him” in Zulu, referring to pictures of Nelson Mandela being banned during apartheid.

His multi-racial bands built an international following and helped to inspire hope, even during the white minority rule of South Africa between 1948 and the 1990s.

Tributes poured in for the singer on Twitter, with the South African Government calling Clegg one of the Rainbow Nation’s “most celebrated sons”.

“He was a singer, a songwriter, a dancer, an anthropologist whose infectious crossover music exploded on to the international scene and contributed towards social cohesion,” the government said.

Updated: July 17, 2019 12:37 AM