South African music legend Johnny Clegg dies, aged 66

South African musician Johnny Clegg sings in honour of Nelson Mandela during his memorial service at the Cape Town Stadium on 11 December 2013

South African musician Johnny Clegg sings in honour of Nelson Mandela during his memorial service at the Cape Town Stadium on 11 December 2013

"It is with vast sadness that we confirm that Jonathan (Johnny) Clegg, OBE OIS, succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66 on the afternoon of 16 July 2019 at his family home in Johannesburg, South Africa", read the statement.

He died of cancer at his home in Johannesburg on Tuesday, aged 66.

Clegg's multi-racial bands during South Africa's white minority rule attracted an global following.

Clegg, a Grammy nominee and Billboard music award victor known for his fluent Zulu which he mixed into his traditional folk music known as mbaqanga, was also a vocal critic of the apartheid government that ruled South Africa until 1994.

Meaning "We have not seen him" in Zulu, the song was one of the first to openly call for Mandela's release.

With curly hair and an amiable demeanour, Clegg maintained his energy and passion even as pancreatic cancer took hold, embarking on a "Final Journey Tour" of several countries in 2017 after being diagnosed two years earlier. "It's all been reconfigured", he told reporters in 2017.

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"His exposure to Zulu migrant workers during adolescence introduced him to the culture and music", Quin said. I travelled to NY with Jesse Clegg, it's just incredible family. "That was emotionally something I could relate to". At the age of 33 in 1986 during the height of Apartheid he partnered with Dudu Zulu to form his second inter-racial band called Savuka.

In 1979 they released their first album, "Universal Men", when Clegg turned professional. The song "Scatterlings of Africa" topped the charts in England and France, where Clegg was particularly celebrated.

"His passing has left us numb and we request that the family's privacy be respected during this trying time", Quin said.

Clegg broke the law to play with black musicians back in the era of racial apartheid, when such mingling was banned, says the BBC's Andrew Harding in Johannesburg. Under the tutelage of Charlie Mzila, a flat cleaner by day and musician by night, Clegg mastered the Zulu language, maskandi guitar and isishameni dance styles.

Johnny Clegg performing at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town.

He is survived by his wife Jenny and their two sons Jesse and Jaron.

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