Though African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela was freed earlier this year, the struggle against the South African apartheid policies continues, especially in the music world.
For recording artist Johnny Clegg, a white member of three Zulu tribes, and his band Savuka, the release of the imprisoned Mandela is just one small step toward a greater good."I don't want to be the Great White Hope," Clegg said in a recent interview. "I just want to give people hope - realistic hope."
Clegg and Savuka will get the chance to spread that hopeful message as they make their first Utah appearance Saturday, Oct. 13, at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center.
The 36-year-old Clegg, also the vice president of the South African Musicians Alliance, recently released his 13th album, titled "Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World," on Capitol Records. The LP mixes deep bass funk riffs and traditional African guitar stylings with rock, jazz and pop trappings.
However, Clegg said he hasn't softened his outspoken political demeanor for the album, especially on the spirited "One 'Man, One Vote," written in honor of slain anti-apartheid activist (and Clegg's friend) David Webster, who was assassinated last year.
"The brutal finality of his death left feeling angry, frustrated and helpless. Three weeks later I wrote the song."
Such sentiments are typical in Clegg's deceptively catchy tunes.
In 1979, Clegg formed Juluka with Sipho Mchunu, a migrant Zulu worker, releasing seven albums before disbanding in 1985. However, two former members of Juluka, Dudu Zulu and Derek DeBeers, followed Clegg into his current band, the name of which translates into "we have arisen."
For the band's stage shows, Clegg and Dudu Zulu dance with traditional Zulu choreography during many of the band's more tribal-sounding numbers.
Clegg became acquainted with African music and dancing quite unintentionally. "The way I came to African forms became a political act by nature of the fact that I wasn't allowed to do them - to experience them.
"To me, they were fun things, things I wanted to be a part of - dancing with Africans at a migrant workers hostel, playing with them on the roofs where they live - and things I wasn't allowed, because of the apartheid laws, to do."
Two previous Savuka LPs, "Third World Child" and "Shadow Man," have led to sold-out shows throughout Europe.
Samples will be the opening act for the show, which starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.50 ($13.50 for U. students when purchased at Kingsbury Hall) and are available at all Sound Off and Graywhale CD Exchange outlets, Smokey's Records, Star Gazer and the Salt Palace ticket office.