So, here we are at the end of my list. It was a hard list to narrow down, I can tell you — as it always is, I gather. Eight songs… how can one possibly choose?
I was pretty sure of my first few, a little sketchy there in the middle, and then lo and behold I had one left to choose. ONE.
Well, it had to be Johnny Clegg, didn’t it.
Johnny Clegg is one of those people who raised my musical consciousness, showing me the beauty of music beyond our borders — what we call, from our West-centric perspective, “World Music”. And in so doing, he raised my cultural consciousness as well.
Although the video I have is from 1987, I first heard an earlier incarnation of the song and saw the accompanying video maybe in 1982 or 1983, on one of the many late Saturday nights I was glued to the television watching the groundgreaking The New Music (another key part of my musical education). From the moment I heard it, I was hooked.
This song, with its talk of our common origins and its anthropological bent (Clegg being an anthropology scholar in South Africa as well as a great musician) got me dreaming of other places, other times, other belief systems — as a kid with dreams of archaeology and history and anthropology but with no scientific capabilities whatsoever, dreaming was the best I could do. But this man with his multiracial group from an intolerant and violent country also taught me about love and acceptance and courage and standing up for these things in the face of ugly politics.
Many came afterwards, but Johnny Clegg really made me think about the world and its possibilities, and, I think, started my interest in and fascination with so many things African: bioanthropology, ecology, cultures, languages…
I remember, sitting in a classroom in Indiana in 1988, listening to my bioanthropology prof talk about Olduvai and the Rift Valley and Lucy, and suddenly all I could hear in my head was this song. We are all scatterlings from beneath that copper sky long ago.
And 25 years later, it still resonates with me. And Johnny Clegg’s words and music still hold that magic for me. So, on my island, he will remind me of where I come from, where we all come from, and I can consider our origins and where we have yet to go, as I dance around and sing. Because, all larger philosophical questions aside: the man writes a song you can dance and sing along to, yes?
So that’s it. Eight songs. Perhaps next week I can post some of the also-rans, the maybes that did not make the cut. Or maybe not.