The year is 1989- the Berlin Wall has just fallen and Nelson Mandela is not far from release even if Apartheid in South Africa is still very much entrenched. People are standing up for their rights and it seems to be working!
"You got to wash with the crocodile in the river. You got to swim with the sharks in the sea. You got to live with the crooked politician, trust those things that you can never see."
Johnny Clegg, self proclaimed white Zulu, and his "daring" (for then!) mixed race band, Savuka, present a strong, powerful rock album with a distinctive style, running highs of anthems and love songs, contrasting with long slow numbers. Clegg sings in English and Zulu with clear confident lyrics. The South African feel is provided by backing trumpets and sax, with sampled keyboards providing echoes of traditional thumb pianos (mbira). Not for those who like their lyrics bland and uninventive, this is an an exciting mix of protest songs, heartfelt love songs- Dela ("I think I know why the dog howls at the moon...") and commentaries on the realities of surviving life (including the worries of bombing raids) or just the pleasure of being alive ("You are the rolling ocean, you are the mighty sea, you are the breath that brings each new day to me.").
This was the first Johnny Clegg album I ever bought, and it remains my favourite, twelve years later. It introduced me to one of my all-time favourite songs: "Dela", which lately turned up on the 'George of the Jungle' soundtrack. 'Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World' is funny and serious and powerful. Johnny Clegg's music, with both Juluka and Savuka, is a great mix of poetry and pop, form and content. It's a great feel-good album with a serious message, and it shows that you don't have to write depressing lyrics to get your message across. I hope Johnny will tour England soon, and that his work gets the recognition it deserves.
Every time I listen to this album I like it even more. One of those albums that gets better with repeated listening. Johnny Clegg and Savuka created an entirely new genre. Savuka has a more rock-orientated feel than other world music acts, with some powerful riffs and catchy songs. Their blend of western pop and traditional zulu music is truly masterful and unique, and never swings too far in either direction. Johnny Clegg sings in both English and Zulu. I used to have favourites in this collection, but now I accept they are all magnificent songs of the same very high quality.
Johnny Clegg and Savuka achieved massive cross-over success in the late 80's, and this album helps to explain why. Michael Jackson once cancelled one of his shows in France because he attracted a smaller audience than Johnny Clegg and Savuka!
The songs are so wonderfully crafted. The album, like others in the Savuka catalogue, features love songs like dela along with politically motivated songs with the message presented both explicitly (one human one vote) and implicitly (woman be my country and cruel crazy...). Overall, a joy to listen to. Easily ranks among my top 5 favourite albums. Probably Savuka's best offering. A great place to start if you are new to Clegg. Reading this review, the chances are you are interested in world pop music. Even if not, there is till a lot to discover and enjoy. Don't hesitate, buy it! You wont be disappointed.
Love this album- takes me back to a visit to South Africa in 94, six months after the first democratic elections when the country was buzzing and full of hope. Even though this album predates that event it is full of the hope that made it possible. Musically, a brilliant fusion of western rock and South African grooves, rhythms and instrumental work
An CD you should really listen to if you had anything to do with the struggles in SA or were aware of them and supported the anti-aparthaid movement. The sleeve notes are also very much worth reading to understand where some of his lyrics came from. Excellent album!