1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Kahn Morbee”

The Crossing – Johnny Clegg

The Crossing – Johnny Clegg

The Crossing – Johnny Clegg

Written for Dudu Ndlovu, one of Clegg’s dancers who was killed during the violence of the early 90’s, ‘The Crossing’ is a moving song and one of the standout tracks on ‘Heat, Dust & Dreams’ his album from 1993. On the face of it the song could be about crossing over from the land of the living to be with the ancestors, but, given the time this song was released, it was also a metaphor for the crossing the country was making from apartheid to democracy.

This is argueably one of Clegg’s most polished songs and possibly one of his best vocal tracks. That’s not to diss the rough folkiness of his other stuff, that’s what gave it it’s charm. But the sombre subject of this song demanded this be a polished affair. The more subdued verses talk of loss and violence but they are offset with the rousing chorus of ‘O Siyeza, o siyeza, sizofika webaba noma’ (We are coming, we are coming, we will arrive soon). The heartfelt delivery is the kind of stuff that can bring a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye.

Roll on 15 years after Johnny recorded the song and in 2018, about a year before his death, a group of leading South African musicians recorded a moving version of the song in honour of Johnny. This conglomeration included among others Johnny’s son Jesse, Karen Zoid, Vusi Mahlasela, David Kramer, Kahn Morbee from the Parlotones, Patricia Lewis, Zolani Mahola from Freshlyground, Arno Carstens and a special guest appearance of Peter Gabriel. It is not only the power of the song that reflects Clegg’s genius, but the mix of people from all colours of the South African rainbow working together that makes this a fitting tribute to him. It honours his music and his values.

But perhaps it is the line ‘Oh, it’s funny how those once so close and now gone can still so affect our lives’ that really gets one when listening to this. Johnny has now made his crossing, but his music and legacy lives on in his music. We will be listening to ‘Scatterlings’, ‘Impi’, ‘Asimbonanga’ and many others for a long time to come. I think that ‘The Crossing’ will also be one that people turn to when remembering Johnny and as one comment on the page for the Friends of Johnny Clegg version says ‘If you watched this and didn’t get tearful are you even South African?’

Where to find it:
Heat, Dust & Dreams – Johnny Clegg (1993), EMI,  CDEMCJ(WF)5499

Johnny Clegg:

Friends of Johnny Clegg version:

We Could Be Divine – Kahn & Karen Zoid

We Could Be Divine – Kahn & Karen Zoid

We Could Be Divine – Kahn & Karen Zoid (Video screen grab)

I must admit to not particularly liking the trend in modern pop music where every other song is Artist 1 Featuring Artist 2 and sometimes Artist 3, Artist 4, Artist 5 etc. However, in recent-ish history there have been some cracking collaborations on the local music music scene and 2 of these have already featured on the list, namely Francis van Coke and Karen Zoid’s sublime ‘Toe Vind Ek Jou’ and Koos Kombuis and David Kramer’s magnificent ‘Ek Wil Net Huis Toe Gaan’. To this list of great local collaborations of the current millennium I now add Kahn and Karen Zoid’s ‘We Could Be Divine’.
Kahn is of course Kahn Morbee who came to fame as the lead singer of the Parlotones and Karen Zoid needs no introduction as she continues to embed herself into the SA Music Treasure Chest.
Starting off sounding like an early 80’s new romantic hit with a synthesizer introduction, ‘We Could Be Divine’ quickly introduces Kahn and Karen’s distinctive vocals which playfully intertwine as the song builds with a stomping rhythm coming in and the voices soar. It’s a sort of 80’s pop rock with shades of 90’s grunge draped like a lace curtain over it while a 20-teens pop bigness inflates the tune to heights that engross the listener.
Given the number of views the Youtube video has had, (only 127,000 at the time of writing), this seems to have eluded a lot of people, which is odd given the strength of this track. The video shows Zoid as an Alice in Wonderland character with a rather odd-looking Kahn playing the Mad Hatter. It’s a great video and an even better song. So my advice is lose yourself in the wonderland of this song, you won’t be disappointed.

Where to find it:
A Noise In The Void – Kahn, Sheer Sound


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