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Scatterling of Africa

by Johnny Clegg

Pan MacMillan

‘There are moments in life that are pure, and which seem to hang in the air, unhitched from the everyday world as we know it. Suspended for a few seconds, they float in their own space and time with their own hidden prospects. For want of a better term, we call these moments “magical” and when we remember them they are cloaked in a halo of special meaning.’

For 14-year-old Johnny Clegg, hearing Zulu street music as plucked on the strings of a guitar by Charlie Mzila one evening outside a corner café in Bellevue, Johannesburg, was such a ‘magical’ moment.

The success story of Juluka and later Savuka, and the cross-cultural celebration of music,  language, story, dance and song that stirred the hearts of millions across the world, is well documented. Their music was the soundtrack to many South Africans’ lives during the turbulent 70s and 80s as the country moved from legislated oppression to democratic freedom. It crossed borders, boundaries and generations, resonating around the world and back again.

Less known is the story of how it all began and developed.  Scatterling of Africa is the early story, as Johnny Clegg wrote it and wanted it told. It is the story of how the son of an unconventional mother, grandson of Jewish immigrants, came to realise that identity can be a choice, and home is a place you leave and return to as surely as the seasons change.

This memoir of the early days is filled with extraordinary stories of the determination with which Johnny pursued his quest to play the music he wanted, to the people who wanted to hear it. Written with passion and humour, it is also a record of the absurdity and tragedy of the times.