Scatterling of Africa: My Early Years by Johnny Clegg will be published by Pan Macmillan in October 2021.
‘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, the cross-cultural celebration of music and 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 that origin 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.
The Clegg family has said:
‘We are hugely proud to be able share this memoir that Johnny worked so hard on for several years. For Johnny, this book was both a process of coming to terms with his own cultural identity and reliving the most special, formative moments that defined his journey. This unique South African story is a testament to the power of human connection and friendships across cultural, political and social divides. In his own words, he takes us on the great adventure of his early years with all its hardships, complexities and self-discoveries. Discussions are underway with a prominent director for the screenplay and an announcement is due shortly.’
Terry Morris, MD of Pan Macmillan South Africa, says:
‘What a privilege for the Pan Macmillan team to bring Johnny’s remarkable memoir into the world. This book will find its way into the hearts of readers and fans through the mesmerising stories, musings and reflections in which Johnny reveals a world of music and dance and grapples with identity and his own sense of belonging in the world. Johnny’s writing is steeped in humour and wisdom and you will be richer for having stepped into his world.’
About the author
Johnny Clegg was born in England on 7 June 1953. He grew up in Zimbabwe and South Africa, and spent a formative year in Zambia as that country transitioned to independence in 1964. Together with Sipho Mchunu, Clegg formed the multiracial band Juluka. They toured the length and breadth of South Africa, performing in township halls and at music festivals. The song ‘Scatterlings of Africa’, a hit in 1979, launched their international career. Clegg died on 16 July 2019, leaving his wife Jenny, and sons Jesse and Jaron.