Biography

Johnny & Sipho


      Juluka was born out of the incredible and unlikely friendship of Johnny Clegg, a middle/upper class white kid from the suburbs, and Sipho Mchunu, a Zulu tribesman, who came to the city to work as a gardener during the Apartheid era of South Africa.

      At 14, Johnny began playing guitar and through the interest he met Mntonganazo Mzila, a Zulu apartment cleaner, who played street music near Clegg's home in Johannesburg. For two years Johnny learned the fundamentals of Zulu music and Ihhlangwini (Zulu stick dancing). He accompanied Mzila to all the migrant haunts, earning himself a reputation as a fine musician in the competitive Zulu street musician tradition.

      Mchunu is a self-taught guitarist who grew up in the Zulu heartland of Krankop. Like many children, his first guitar was a self-made affair-an old used gas canister with fishing gut as strings. He left his hut in the homelands during his teens to look for work in the coastal resort of Durban, eventually landing a job as a gardener. His guitar skills improved with every street competition and he too earned a reputation as an excellent Mqamba guitarist. The lure of making more money and the adventure of a big city took Sipho to Johannesburg. On his days off, Sipho roamed the streets, guitar in hand. He had heard of this white kid with Zulu guitar skills, but the two had never met.

Coincidentally, Johnny lived in the same neighborhood that Sipho was working as a gardener.It was inevitable for their paths to cross and what started off as a friendly guitar challenge blossomed into a genre-busting partnership that would first take the nation by storm and later introduce the world to the unique musical style of Juluka. Sipho helped Johnny hone his guitar playing, Zulu dancing, language and stick fighting skills. Johnny introduced Sipho to Celtic and rock styles that were totally foreign to Sipho.

      Together they secretly toured the migrant hostels and parties, challenging fellow musicians to competitions. The partnership created a stir in both the musical community and the government. One side wanted to break it down and the other side wanted to build it up. Never before had a black person and a white person performed together as a cross-cultural unit.

      In 1976, Johnny and Sipho scored their first major records deal as a duo (as Johnny and Sipho), and released their debut single "Woza Frida" (Come Friday) to a stunned nation. This was the beginning of Johnny's concept of bringing together English lyrics and western melodies with Zulu musical structures. In 1979, the duo changed their name to Juluka and released their critically-acclaimed debut album "Universal Men". Although it was heralded by the press as the wave of the future, it did not receive any airplay in South Africa due to the cultural segregationist laws that prevailed. Their second album, "African Litany", featuring their first hit single "Impi", gave them their national break. "Scatterlings", their fourth album, marked their entry into the international market. Eventually, five Juluka records would go gold, and two went platinum.

      In 1985, Sipho returned home to help his community and Johnny went on to form the internationally successful group Savuka. Never losing touch with each other, Clegg and Mchunu decided to rekindle the old spirit and reunite for a tour and a new record. Soon after Johnny put together a new band. Savuka was to take South African music to the world.

      Soon after Johnny put together a new band. Savuka was to take South African music to the world. Their debut album "Third World Child" achieved phenomenal success selling over two million world-wide. Their follow up "Shadow Man" further established Johnny in new international territories as he undertook a world tour and supported Steve Winwood in the USA and George Michael in Canada amongst many others.

      Savuka's fourth album "Heat, Dust & Dreams" was nominated for a Grammy in the Best World Music category, and won the Billboard Music award for "Best World Music" album in 1993.

      Throughout Johnny never stopped touring both internationally and in South Africa. In 1994 Johnny toured South Africa in support of the "Best Of Savuka" release "In My African Dream". Simultaneously his newly found record company Look South released a limited edition of nine familiar songs recorded live in France and the USA called "Live & Rarities".

      In 1997, Johnny and long time partner Sipho Mchunu returned to studio work on a new album of Juluka, what represented a special event, The 2 men(people) not having worked together for more than 10 years. Of this meeting taken out the album named "Ya Vuka Inkunzi (The Bull Has Risen)", or Crocodile Love.

      After these last album with Sipho, Johnny restarted its career solo and released three albums "New World Survivor" (2002), "One life" (2006) and "Human" (2010).

- In My African Dream -
The Johnny Clegg Discography