Clegg is one of South Africa’s most celebrated musicians and equal rights activists. Through his blend of English lyrics and Zulu structure and melody, Clegg’s music spoke to a nation that was in turmoil in the 1970s.
Clegg was brought up in Zimbabwe and immigrated to South Africa when he was seven years old and his mother married a South African journalist. His step-father was a crime journalist and Clegg often accompanied him to townships where he witnessed first-hand the struggle of black South Africans. This, coupled with his mother’s jazz and cabaret background, had a deep influence on Clegg’s cultural views and upbringing.
While lecturing Anthropology at the University of Witwatersrand, Clegg was signed up to music producer Hilton Rosenthal’s label. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Clegg and his band grew in popularity through their tours of USA, Canada, Germany and Scandinavia, eventually recording two platinum and five gold albums.
Today, Clegg’s music is a favourite of South Africans.He performed at the Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Aids Awareness Concerts; he contributed to the movie adaption of ‘Jock of the Bushveld’ with one of his most celebrated songs ‘Great Heart’ and has won various national and international awards throughout his career.
Yende is an internationally acclaimed opera singer, performing on stages in New York, Los Angeles, London and Milan. She was born in Mpumalanga in 1985 in the small timber-growing town of Piet Retief. Opera was not a part of Yende’s life; she had never heard such music until she was watching television with her family one evening and heard opera in the background of an advert.
Having been exposed to the beauty of opera singing, she abandoned her desire to become an accountant and decided to focus instead on her singing – despite her choir teacher advising otherwise. Yende went on to study at the University of Cape Town’s South African College of Music, after which she entered numerous competitions.
Yende first gained international attention when she became the first artist in history to win first prize in every category of the acclaimed Belvedere Competition in Germany. She completed her training at Teatro alla Scala in Milan before making her 2010 La Scala debut. Since then, Yende has received standing ovations for her performances at the Metropolitan Opera as Adèle in Rossini’s ‘Le Comte Ory’ and at the National Theatre in Riga, Latvia as Micaela in Bizet’s ‘Carmen’.
Described as South Africa’s first lady of song, Khumalo was born in Orlando West, Soweto and raised by her mother, a nurse and her father, a music professor and historian whose passion for a broad range of music inspired her to pursue her own career as a musician.
Khumalo studied a Bachelor of Arts in Music at the University of Zululand and qualified with an Honour’s in History of Music from the University of Witwatersrand. From the age of 24, Khumalo entered into South Africa’s professional music scene, heading the Federate Union of Black Art’s (FUBA) musical division. She added to her list of qualifications a postgraduate Diploma in Management which equipped her for her role as Chairman of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
Khumalo has performed on stages the world over. Her big break came when she won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music in 1993, which marked her as a woman to watch in the music scene. She has toured the US with Hugh Masekela; appeared as a soloist with South African symphony orchestras; and played leading roles in various stage opera productions in Oslo, Norway. Since then, she has been bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Naledi Theatre Awards and identified as one of 100 World Class South Africans by
Born in Cape Town in 1934, Ibrahim grew up listening to traditional African, jazz and religious music – all strong influences on the music he would in time create. His first musical lesson was the piano in 1941, before becoming a professional musician eight years later. Formerly called Adolph Johannes Brand before converting to Islam, Ibrahim formed part of the group that recorded the first ever Jazz LP by black South African musicians.
Ibrahim relocated to Europe in the 1960s where he was approached by Duke Ellington, world renowned pianist and jazz musician, after hearing him play and orchestrated a recording session for Ibrahim and the band he was playing with at the time. He and his partner moved to New York shortly afterwards where he played at the Newport Jazz Festival before touring the country.
Ibrahim returned to South Africa in the 1990s and has since performed with numerous symphony orchestras, including one that honoured Nelson Mandela as President in 1994. Ibrahim was the initiator of the Cape Town Jazz Orchestra and continues to perform all over the world today.
Masekela is a world renowned jazz musician, who has entertained audiences all over the globe and is arguably one of Africa’s most important musicians. His music has conquered international charts, including topping The Rolling Stone’s Jumping Jack Flash with his ‘Grazing in the Grass’. His famous song ‘Bring Him Back Home’ became the anthem for Nelson Mandela’s world tour after his release from prison.
Among other highlights in his career he performed on stage with U2 during one of their biggest ever world tours, as well as performed for Her Majesty The Queen during a New Year’s Eve celebration in 2012.
Masekela was born in Witbank in 1939 and was presented with his first trumpet by Father Trevor Huddleston, a well-respected champion in the fight for equal human rights. He left South Africa for New York where he enrolled in the Manhattan School of Music and immersed himself in New York’s Jazz scene. Despite the American influences, Masekela stayed true to his African roots, keeping his signature Afro-Jazz tone and naming his debut album ‘Trumpet Africaine’.
Morake was born in Soweto in 1964, during the height of apartheid and entered into the music industry at the age of nine when he dropped out of school to perform in night clubs in and around Soweto. He released his first recorded song a few years later when he was approached by a music producer who watched him perform at one of the town’s popular nightclubs.
He later relocated to Lesotho – living in exile –and earned a modest living entertaining tourists at the Victoria Hotel. Morake was approached by a US ambassador who helped him gain acceptance into the Duke Ellington School of Music in Washington D.C. where he studied for three years before moving to Los Angeles to further pursue his career.
Morake is most famous for his musical contributions in ‘The Lion King’, which became a global success; ‘The Circle of Life’ won the 1995 Grammy Award for the best instrumental arrangement with accompanying vocal. Morake’s contributions were included in the Broadway stage production of ‘The Lion King’ and furtheried his international success by receiving a Tony nomination.
This is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in the 1st edition of Vision 2030, written by Jocelyn Stiebel and under the headline ‘South Africa’s global icons’.