Umthi Omkhulu: A Tribute To Johnny Clegg

My father died on the 2nd of May this year. 2 days shy of his 68th birthday. Im still trying to process my grief.

He was a big fan of Johnny Clegg. The man they call The White Zulu.

As a young man growing up in apartheid South Africa, Nkosemntu had to find himself amidst racial tension.

He had to learnt to stand up against racism. Something he felt was a disease. He chose to fight against it by disprooving its merit. He travelled the land & toiled side by side with his fellow men of all colours, building dams & roads, highways & waterways.

In a time when it was easier to flee underground & join the armed struggle, my dad chose to face his enemies, win their respect & build his country.

I guess the man they call Bra Nko got alot of inspiration from Johnny.

In a time when it was easier to enjoy the benefits of racism, Johnny Clegg chose humanitarianism.

He chose to love his brother, regardless of skin tone.

He defied & opposed apartheid.

He chose to understand what being a human was & spread his message of love.

So powerful a message that in 1988 Micheal Jackson cancelled a peformance in Lyon, France because Johnny Clegg was peforming.

Micheal Jackson.

But on that day, Juluka stole all his fans.

We lost a great man on the 16th of July.

A music icon. A folk hero. A South African legend.

He died 2 days shy of his great idol, Nelson Mandela’s birday. 2 years shy of his own 68th.

I feel like my dad died all over again.

So I wrote you a poem Johnny. Its inspired by your song, The Crossing.

I hope you can play it for my dad & tell him I love him.

Lala ngoxolo, nyana we-Afrika.

Ukuphumula ngokuthula, ndodana yase-Afrika.

Umthi omkhulu:

“A big tree falls in the heart of the land and the earth shakes from the weight.

The birds in the trees, they scatter in flight as darkness descends on the day.

Oh the cries they rise as the creatures wail & the heavens weep in a swoon.

And as surely as the sun will return, tonight we will howl at the moon.

O Uyeza, o uyeza , uzofika webaba noma

O uyeza, o uyeza, uyagudle lomhlaba

Uyawela lapheshaya lulezontaba ezimnyama

Lapha uzobheka phansi konke ukhulupheka

A little boy kneels by the fallen tree. His tears they soak in the soil.

He curses his weakness. He cant pick the tree up. Alas, he is only a boy.

Oh his memories play of all the days, the tree was his shade & his boon.

But now the great tree has fallen, his innocence is gone. He can only howl at the moon.

O Uyeza, o uyeza , uzofika webaba noma

O uyeza, o uyeza, uyagudle lomhlaba

Uyawela lapheshaya lulezontaba ezimnyama

Lapha uzobheka phansi konke ukhulupheka

As the boy looks around through his tears & pain, the creatures they gather around.

Lions & springboks. Elephants & baboons. Great birds from lands yet to be found.

They all gather around the tree on the ground. In their hundreds & thousands to pray.

And as the clouds they part & the sun bathes the great tree, the proud boy wipes his tears away.

O Uyeza, o uyeza , uzofika webaba noma

O uyeza, o uyeza, uyagudle lomhlaba

Uyawela lapheshaya lulezontaba ezimnyama

Lapha uzobheka phansi konke ukhulupheka”

Thoughts?

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