A local drummer who spent some of his years playing in the former Juluka band with the late Johnny Clegg brought to light his fondest moments with the music legend.
Zola Mtiya who now tutors drums and marimba to local youth at the Queenstown Art Centre will be performing with the former Juluka band members at Clegg’s memorial service at the pavilion in the Sandton Convention Centre this afternoon.
Mtiya said his last conversation with Clegg was four months ago. “He was telling me about his battle with pancreatic cancer and telling me he was now doing karate in a joking manner. When I attempted to contact him recently one of his sons answered the phone and told me to text Clegg as he was no longer able to speak.”
He said he later received the news of his passing through a number of phone calls from people.
“I was a bit sceptical about the news and I could not sleep that night. I spent the rest of the day watching TV to confirm the news.”
Mtiya said his first encounter with Clegg was when he joined the band in 1981.
Juluka was associated with the mass movement against apartheid. I was working at Gallo Studios as a recording artist at the time.
I started off with Johnny Clegg, Sipho Mcunu and Gary van Zyl. We had a great relationship as a band, however it was also at the time when the apartheid system reigned supreme. We were met with many challenges because our band was composed of blacks and whites which was an unwelcome combination at that time. We produced three albums, Ubuhle Bemvelo, Scatterlings of Africa, Work for All and Umbaqanga music.
He added that Clegg used to also work underground as a political activist while he lectured at Wits University in Johannesburg.
He had great passion for music. He was the type of character who would visit me and communicate with me in Zulu and request that we cook pap together. We would then sit and compose music. He said Clegg had also assisted him, along with Mchunu, to get registered as a garden boy in Johannesburg.
“I would be imprisoned quite often when the police caught me off guard for not having employment and they always had to go and search for me at the police station.”
Mtiya said the best part about their band was that is attracted black and white which served the purpose as the two ethnicities were segregated by apartheid. “Our concerts were popular among varsity students who came out in great numbers.”
He described Clegg as an artist who had a vision to unite people – a true nation builder.
“Clegg was down to earth. He loved people and was able to help a lot of them regardless of what race they were. He hated the apartheid system, that is why he composed Scatterlings of Africa.
“Our style of music was a fusion of afro pop, jazz and maskandi, with a touch of rock.
It was a rare combination of music which became popular throughout the world. We performed in Germany, London and around African countries. Our type of music was not found abroad so people loved and appreciated our different sound. Clegg taught me discipline and how to present myself well around people. I learnt how to compose music from him. Even though were no longer working together, he made sure I continued getting royalties for the music we made.
“He behaved like a black person. I remember he had a white friend who was a lecturer at Rhodes University who spoke Xhosa fluently. He would communicate in Zulu with him and his friend would answer in Xhosa.”