African Litany

With his current band, Savuka, white South African Johnny Clegg has created a sonic blend of Sting and Zulu jive that (while critics accuse him of selling out) crosses over to U.S. college playlists quite nicely. Both his pop- and his world-music audiences should be happy with the rerelease of these records by Clegg’s first band, Juluka, which he cofounded with black South African Sipho Mchunu. A multiracial group singing in both English and Zulu was shocking to the divided country in 1982, but if older South Africans were affronted, younger whites and blacks immediately responded to Juluka’s punchy revamp of a music that, according to the government, didn’t even exist. African Litany (1982), Juluka’s second album, and the one that made them stars, is slightly poppier than the back-to-roots follow-up Ubuhle Bemvelo (1982) — Litany points toward the slickness that has bothered detractors of Clegg’s new band. But both records are joyously alive with the idea of South African common ground — an idea that, tragically, still remains largely an ideal. A-

African Litany
  • Music