South African artist, activist and philanthropist Johnny Clegg has been honoured with the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). This comes after Buckingham Palace released the Queen’s 2015 Birthday Honours list. The OBE is awarded to an individual for a significant contribution of outstanding service to the community as a national order of chivalry.
Clegg has received this acknowledgement for his activism against apartheid as well as for his charity work. He has played a major role in bringing South Africa together through his music and actions. Nicknamed ‘The White Zulu’, Clegg’s infectious and novel crossover music merging western pop/rock with African Zulu rhythms and structures makes him one of SA’s most celebrated artists and greatest exports. The musician and anthropologist first rose to prominence when he formed Juluka with Sipho Mchunu in the late 1970s. Drawing heavily on traditional Zulu music, the band released a string of popular albums. Clegg formed another crossover band, Savuka (meaning “we have risen”), finding a huge degree of international success both at home and abroad. More recently Johnny has released solo albums like 'New World Survivor' (2002) and 'Human' (2010).
The OBE is the latest of countless honours, including three honorary doctorates, a Grammy nomination (1993), a Billboard Music Award (1994) and a Kora Award (1998). In France he was received several medals of honour as well as music industry awards. In 2010 he and Mchunu received Lifetime Achievement Awards at the SAMAs.
British High Commissioner to South Africa, Judith Macgregor, said: “This is a recognition of Johnny’s unique services to the Arts, vulnerable people and children and to democracy in South Africa. I am particularly pleased that we are able to celebrate his achievements of the past three decades. We continue to work with Johnny and others to ensure that the positive change that they have secured will continue to have long-lasting impact on generations to come.”
On hearing the news, Clegg said: “It’s a tremendous moment for me to receive this honour and acknowledgement expressed in this award.
“It has been a long journey of more than 30 years, from when I first began to experiment with truly South African cross-over music, and at the same time becoming a cultural activist in the struggle against apartheid,” he said. “Our music was banned or restricted on national radio, as well as shows being closed down from time to time by apartheid’s security police; we were faced with many obstacles that we had to contend with.
“Having worked with The End Conscription Campaign, the Trade Union Movement and the Free the Children in Detention Campaign, resisting forced removals of rural communities, fund-raising for the United Democratic Front, amongst other progressive causes, this award re-energises those dreams and commitments in a very special way,” added Clegg.
Roddy Quin, manager of Johnny Clegg and director of REAL Concerts, congratulated Clegg on receiving this tremendous accolade: “It is an incredible honour to have worked with this man for the past 26 years. I congratulate him on a well-deserved award. We are extremely proud of Johnny.’