Johnny Clegg may no longer be with us, but his legacy lives on through his music. With a catalogue that spans more than four decades of groundbreaking music, Clegg still stands tall on the world stage. After months of trying to find the right people to administer this significant body of work, the Clegg family have finally entrusted the task to Sheer Publishing, the largest independent Music Publisher in Africa and a division of Downtown Music Services (DMS).
From the time he began mastering Zulu music as a teenager to the formation of Juluka, Savuka and the past 23 years as a solo artist, Clegg’s success has made him one of the world’s greatest musicians. Clegg’s mixing of English lyrics with Zulu musical structures came a full decade before Paul Simon’s global breakout album, Graceland. In fact, Johnny Clegg was an integral part of the South African music fabric since before Sheer Publishing was even founded.
David Alexander, Founder and Managing Director of Sheer Publishing, elaborates, “Clegg’s music has been one of the biggest cultural exports in our lifetimes. His role in speaking truth to power has been acknowledged by many countries with many of their highest awards. He was a writer who was able to articulate the South African narrative in a way that crossed over to multiple cultures and languages and garnered support for change when we needed it most.”
It’s easy to forget how radical Clegg was. Alongside heralding a new musical form, Clegg organised live performances away from the prying eyes of the police. Getting airplay on South Africa radio was near-impossible at the time, and still, Clegg managed to gain a devoted fanbase and continues to do so to this very day. His music not only spans cultural boundaries but age groups as well.
Mike Smith, Global President of DMS says, “Johnny Clegg is not only one of the greatest South African singer-songwriters of recent times but his work as an anti-apartheid activist, plus his support for the indigenous people of South Africa has been instrumental in showing the power of music to create significant change. The fact that his band was the first multi-racial group in the time of apartheid underlines his importance of direct action in bringing the apartheid to a close.”Hilton Rosenthal, who has looked after Johnny Clegg’s Juluka and Savuka publishing since 1979 says, “Downtown Music Services has built a great team and technology that will enable us to maximise opportunities for Johnny’s incredible catalogue of works throughout the world. We are excited to see what we can build together.”
Sheer Publishing will now administer the music icon’s royalties for the Clegg family, who ultimately own the rights. Without the power of Downtown, Sheer would not have had the opportunity to work with such an esteemed musician and are extremely grateful to DMS for entrusting them with this catalogue.
Alexander says, “We are very proud to be working with music from an African music industry icon. Johnny Clegg has been synonymous with the positive side of South Africa during some of our darkest days and we are grateful to be the caretakers of his legacy for a new generation of African music fans.”
The Clegg Family added, “We are proud to be a part of the Downtown family and excited that Johnny Clegg’s catalogue is in the esteemed company of other legendary artists such as John Lennon and Miles Davis. We look forward to this special collaboration that will celebrate and expand on the great legacy that Johnny Clegg left behind.”Mike concludes, “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with this remarkable catalogue of songs and we will be doing everything we can to bring them to a new generation of global music fans. We are working hard to underline Johnny’s contribution to making this world a much better place to live in.”