Saturday, December 7, 2013

Johnny Clegg & Savuka - Asimbonanga (videos & lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases Johnny Clegg's song about Nelson Mandela entitled "Aimbonanga". Two videos of that song and that song's lyrics are included in this post.

This post also includes a comment about Nelson Mandela's legacy from the Nelson Mandela Foundation. A link to Madiba's biography written by his foundation is also provided in this post.

In addition, excerpts from links to biographies of South African composer/vocalist Johnny Clegg's biography are also given in this post after the first featured video example of "Asimbonanaga". Included in those excerpts are the Zulu meanings of the words used as the band names' "Juluka" and later "Savuku".

Furthermore, an addendum to this post provides information about why Nelson Mandela is frequently referred to as "Madiba".

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, historical, cultural, entertainment, and aesethic reasons.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

RIP Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918 - December 5, 2013)

" “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela

We know all South Africans and indeed the world join us in this profound sense of loss and sadness on the death of our beloved Founder, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences are with the Mandela Family and friends at this time.

Let us stand together now and in the days ahead, and do what needs to be done to honour with dignity Tata Madiba. We know you share with many of us the same passionate wish to see Nelson Mandela’s legacy being kept alive and made available to the world.

His legacy lives on in all of us – it is in our hands now.

Hamba kahle Madiba."
"Hamba kahle Madiba" is Zulu for "Go well, rest in peace, Madiba".

Here are links to two other pages from that foundation: "Nelson Mandela's Biography" and "Frequently Asked Questions About Nelson Mandela".

(These videos are posted in chronological order based on the date of their publication on YouTube, with the oldest dated video presented first.)

Example #1: Johnny Clegg (With Nelson Mandela) - Asimbonanga - 1999 France

tenshu50, Uploaded on Aug 17, 2007

Lors d'un concert de Johnny Clegg, interprétant "asimbonangua" arrivée de Nelson Mandela.
Here are two comments from that video's viewer comment thread that were written in response to the question "What does Asimbonanga mean?"

Embodied Spirit, 2013
"Asimbonanga means "we have not seen him"."
Carly Brown, 2013
"Photographs of Mandela were banned during Apartheid because the government thought it would encourage revolution, so many people did not see his face for 27 years."
Also, read this information from
"Written [in 1986] as a mix of Zulu and English, the title of this Mandela freedom track is Zulu for "We have not seen him"; at that point, no one had seen Mandela outside of prison for more than two decades. Hailing from South Africa, Clegg stirred up controversy for not only writing this protest hit, but for also having bandmates of different races during the days of Apartheid. In 1999, the band was joined onstage by Mandela during a performance of "Asimbonanga."
"Jonathan "Johnny" Clegg (born 7 June 1953) is a British-born musician from South Africa, who has recorded and performed with his bands Juluka and Savuka, and more recently as a solo act, occasionally reuniting with his earlier band partners. Sometimes called Le Zoulou Blanc ("The White Zulu"), he is an important figure in South African popular music history, with songs that mix Zulu with English lyrics and African with various Western music styles...

In 1969, Clegg formed the first prominent racially mixed South African band, Juluka, with gardener and Zulu musician Sipho Mchunu. Because it was illegal for racially mixed bands to perform in South Africa during the apartheid era, their first album Universal Men[2] received no air play on the state owned SABC, but it became a word-of-mouth hit.

Juluka's / Clegg's music was both implicitly and explicitly political; not only was the fact of the success of the band (which openly celebrated African culture in a bi-racial band) a thorn in the flesh of a political system based on racial separation, the band also produced some explicitly political songs. For example, the album "Work for All" (which includes a song with the same title) picked up on South African trade union slogans in the mid-80's. Even more explicit was the later Savuka album Third World Child in 1987, with songs like "Asimbonanga" ("We haven't seen him"),[3] which called for the release of Nelson Mandela, and which called out the names of three representative martyrs of the South African liberation struggle - Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, and Neil Aggett"...
Also, read these quotes from
"Johnny and Sipho called their new band JULUKA which means “sweat” in Zulu."...

Juluka split up in 1985. Mchunu returned to his roots, which was cattle farming in Zululand, while Clegg formed another crossover band, SAVUKA (which means “we have risen”)"...
Also, here's the information about Sipho Mchunu that appears on his Wikipedia page
"Sipho Mchunu (born 1951, Kranskop, South Africa) is a Zulu musician best known for his partnership with 'white Zulu' Johnny Clegg in the band Juluka from the 1970s to the 1990s.[1] Mchunu's Zulu compositions, vocals and guitar work brought traditional Zulu styles such as maskanda and mbaqanga to a wider crossover audience both in South Africa and internationally.[2]"

Example #2: Asimbonanga (Mandela) - Johnny Clegg & Savuka

Frantastica1972, Uploaded on Aug 13, 2011

(composed by Johnny Clegg)

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang' uMandela thina (We have not seen Mandela)
Laph'ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph'ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water


A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me


Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge
Neil Aggett
Asimbonang 'umfowethu thina (we have not seen our brother)
Laph'ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph'wafela khona (In the place where he died)
Hey wena (Hey you!)
Hey wena nawe (Hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la' siyakhona (When will we arrive at our destination)
These lyrics up to the last chorus are included in the summary for the video given as Example #2 in this post.

for the Italian translation of this song which is also included in that summary.

"Shortly after Nelson Mandela's death Thursday [December 5, 2013] his clan name Madiba emerged in condolences around the world and became a trending topic on Twitter.

The clan or family name represents a person's ancestry. The meaning is deeper than a surname and is used as a sign of respect and affection. The origin of Madiba comes from a chief who ruled in the 18th century, according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Madiba would be used in "an intimate context," said Richard Pithouse, a politics professor at Rhodes University in South Africa. When Mandela entered school, a teacher gave him the name Nelson. It was customary for Africans to also give children English names back then.

Madiba would be used in "an intimate context," said Richard Pithouse, a politics professor at Rhodes University in South Africa. When Mandela entered school, a teacher gave him the name Nelson. It was customary for Africans to also give children English names back then...

The use of Madiba could also have a political meaning, said Peter Alegi, a professor at Michigan State University specializing in South African history.

"Using the Madiba name is to reclaim his African-ness and to downplay the Nelson part, which is a colonial legacy that unfortunately shackled much of the African continent for a long, long time," Alegi said.

Madiba is a term used for older people, particularly men, fitting for a man called the father of the South African nation.
To clarify, Nelson Mandela was called "Madiba" by people outside of his family long before his death as a term of respect and affection.

My thanks to Madiba Nelson Mandela for his life's legacy. Thanks also to Johnny Clegg and Savuka. Thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube, and thanks to those who I quoted in this post.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. I will use what you have shared this Sunday! At our gathering to begin healing after this latest tragedy of Ferguson, Missouri.

    1. Thanks for your comment, rbarry13.

      I agree that Asimbonanga would be a good song for a service on healing the spirit.

      God bless you!