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Juluka before they were huge: the MRF connection

Rare clip surfaces after 39 years

At the time a 20 year-old postgrad Journalism & Media Studies student at Rhodes, Founding Executive Director Shaun Johnson talked to Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu in a video interview for the documentary Rhythm & Dues: Glimpses of South African Roots and Rock. The interview took place in Johnny’s garden, in Johannesburg, 1980, and given his recent passing, it’s an apt moment to revisit his early thinking about Juluka, before they were globally renowned.

As Johnny explains, Juluka represents an attempt at reconciling two cultures that were legally forced to remain separate. It was a radical act of reaching across cultural and linguistic divides, and attempting to make a new sound. This open-hearted and courageous approach speaks closely to the principles espoused by the MRF’s Founding Patron, Nelson Mandela, with whom Clegg became associated following the release of Asimbonanga in 1987.

The MRF is pleased to be able to share the footage with its community of all generations.  Shaun said: “Like millions of people around the world, I am still mourning Johnny, who I was so fortunate to get to know. As well as being a great artist, to me and to many of my generation, he was a rare role model – especially for young white people.”

More about Rhythm and Dues

The full 44-minute documentary film was produced and directed by Shaun and fellow Honours student Chuck Scott, with Nigel Wrench as Assistant Director. It takes a look inside the tumultuous world of the underground music scene of the eighties, when mixed bands were illegal, and music was a form of resistance to the apartheid state.

The film remains largely unseen and unknown; in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s there was no chance of what was then considered such a radical polemic being broadcast. Rather, it was shown relatively clandestinely in clubs and pubs and on university campuses, and developed a following among the broad anti-apartheid Left of the time. Those involved in its creation were harassed by the security police and their film equipment mysteriously stolen in Johannesburg, but the movie got made. It was not formally banned and so continued to reach audiences in modest numbers.

The film was not made on a modest budget. It was made on no budget at all. This, along with its vintage, is the excuse of the creators for its DIY aesthetic.

Rhythm & Dues also features the music of and interviews with (in alphabetical order):

  • Andrew Tracey
  • Asylum Kids
  • Benjy Mudie
  • Dave Monks
  • Harari
  • Ivan Kadey
  • James Phillips
  • Kelly Setlange
  • Leatherette
  • National Wake
  • Patric van Blerk
  • Patrick Lee
  • Peach
  • Peter Gallo
  • Pieter Human
  • Ray Nkwe
  • Roger Lucey
  • Sipho Hotstix Mabuse
  • Steve Kekana
  • The Radio Rats
  • Willie Thabethe