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Music amplifies hope — seven key quotes from Johnny Clegg’s memoir

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A young Johnny Clegg strings his guitar. (Supplied)
A young Johnny Clegg strings his guitar. (Supplied)

It was 1967 in apartheid South Africa and I was 14 years old, living with my mother in the working-class white suburb of Bellevue. I had been sent up to the local corner café to buy milk and bread. Outside the café stood a young black street musician. He was leaning against a classic red English telephone booth with his guitar strapped over one shoulder. He was playing a complicated rhythmic picking line in a kind of absent-minded way.

Most of my life I have felt a kind of internal rootlessness, a result of my upbringing in three different countries – Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa – and being born in a fourth, England, but never knowing it, having left at the age of six months. At moments I am still a stranger to myself, and have over the years been ambushed by conflicts and paradoxes in my struggle to know who I am and how I construct myself and how the wider world constructs me. 

When I stumbled into the world of the tribal migrant Zulu, they were people who seemed to be completely grounded in their sense of who they were. I was envious of their deep comfort in their language and customs and the fact that they were totally "real" in their identity.

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