Johnny Clegg’s manager announced the death of the singer, which occurred on Tuesday. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015. 

South African musician Johnny Clegg, nicknamed the “White Zulu,” died Tuesday of cancer at the age of 66, said his manager at the public television channel SABC.

“Johnny died peacefully today, surrounded by his family in Johannesburg (…), after a four-and-a-half-year battle with cancer,” said his manager, Rodd Quinn, on the SABC. 

“He played a major role in South Africa by introducing people to different cultures and bringing them together,” Rodd Quinn said in a statement. “He showed us what it means to embrace other cultures without losing one’s identity.”

An anti-apartheid voice

Johnny Clegg has drawn inspiration from Zulu culture to conceive a revolutionary music where African rhythms coexist with guitar, electric keyboard and accordion. Engaged in the struggle against apartheid, he co-founded two groups of black and white men in the midst of the separation of peoples, as NPR recalls . One of his greatest planetary hits, Asimbonanga  (“We did not see him” in Zulu), is dedicated to Nelson Mandela .

A few years after the end of apartheid, the author and the hero of this song, now free, had found themselves on stage in Frankfurt (Germany) for a concert as magical as unexpected.

While Johnny Clegg was singing Asimbonanga , the audience had risen as one man.

“I caught a glimpse of someone behind me who was going up on the stage, dancing (…) It was Mandela, it was a shock, I did not even know he was there, “said Johnny Clegg to the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur .

In September 2018, the singer gave an interview to Paris Match in which he gave uncomfortable news of his state of health . He had then had three remissions of pancreatic cancer and two lung tumors had just been detected. “Everyone knows that the end is coming in. It’s a matter of months at worst, years at best,” he said.

Between 2017 and 2018, he embarked on a farewell tour which he managed to honor all dates.