South African singer Johnny Clegg, a fervent opponent of apartheid who revolutionized music by mixing Zulu and Western pop rhythms, died Tuesday at the age of 66 from cancer.
"Johnny died peacefully today (Tuesday), surrounded by his family in Johannesburg (...), after a battle of four and a half years against cancer", announced his manager Roddy Quin on the public television channel SABC .
"He played a major role in South Africa by introducing different cultures and bringing people together," he said in a statement.
"He showed us what it meant to embrace other cultures without losing his identity ... With his unique style of music, he overcame cultural barriers, as few have done," he said. he still stressed.
Nicknamed "White Zulu", he drew inspiration from Zulu culture to write a revolutionary music where wild African rhythms coexisted with guitar, electric keyboard and accordion.
On stage, his concerts were physical prowess, with songs and Zulu dance frenzied.
The artist, who has sold more than five million albums worldwide, has signed many hits including "Scatterlings of Africa" and "Asimbonanga" ("We have not seen" in the Zulu language).
This song, dedicated to Nelson Mandela, the hero of the struggle against apartheid, was once banned in South Africa by the white racist government, before becoming a symbol of the rainbow nation once the regime of apartheid in 1994.
Johnny Clegg was the "torchbearer" of the struggle against apartheid, Tuesday responded South Africa's Minister of Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, on Twitter. "With the death of the singer, composer and anthropologist Johnny Clegg, it is an immense giant who leaves us".
- "Unite the races" -
His music has "contributed to social cohesion" in a divided South Africa, the government said again.
"Legendary" artist Johnny Clegg "used music to unite people of different races" and "inspired social, economic, cultural and political change in the country," said the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party. "His passing is a huge loss for South Africans."
The Soweto Gospel Choir, which won a Grammy this year, said it was "devastated" by the news. "An icon of music and a true South African, we will miss him."
"This is probably one of the saddest days in this country," said musician Sipho "Hotstix", an old friend of Johnny Clegg.
"Johnny could have been one of the most privileged people, as most whites were (in South Africa), but he chose another path, denouncing with music the atrocities of apartheid", he recalled.
"He has immensely helped to make South Africa a pariah state" during apartheid, "he took on him to sing Nelson Mandela when few whites would have done the same. (....) Today we are a different country thanks to what people like Johnny did, "he said.
The singer and dancer, who was suffering from pancreatic cancer, had recently made a farewell world tour. "He fought to the end," said his manager.
The details of his funeral will be communicated later.
? 2019 AFP