Written on his face, the words: “This is for you, Dad.”
Blues guitarist Dan Patlansky struck the opening chord. As iconic as The Star Spangled Banner - the salute to the 50 stars on the American flag.
But this was another land’s anthem. By another 50 stars - some of the finest music-makers in South Africa.
Ard Matthews began the call, words which can stop you in your tracks: “Through all the days that eat away.”
Judith Sephuma: “At every breath that I take.”
Ross from Prime Circle: “Through all the nights I’ve lain alone.”
Somizi: “In someone else’s dream awake.”
Zolani of Freshly Ground: “All the words in truth we have spoken.”
Emo Adams: “That the wind has blown away.”
Karen Zoid: “It’s only you that remains with me.”
Kahn from the Parlotones: “Clear as the light of day.”
All together: “O Siyeza, o siyeza, sizofika webaba noma (we are coming, we will arrive soon),
“O siyeza, o siyeza, siyagudle lomhlaba, (we are coming, we are moving across this earth),
“Siyawela lapheshaya lulezontaba ezimnyama (we are crossing over those dark mountains),
“Lapha sobheka phansi konke ukhulupheka (where we will lay down our troubles).”
Fifty voices, soaring in collective flight. On a journey, The Crossing.
This extraordinary song is about many things.
In 1992, Clegg dedicated it to his fallen brother, Dudu Zulu. They Zulu-danced side-by-side on the streets of Soweto - and some of the biggest stages on earth. Captivating the world, in union.
He was shot dead in 1992, in warring KZN. And so began this ritual, legend, salute: To say Goodbye. And somehow remain strong.
Almost 30 years later, 50 stars sang it again. As Clegg’s “copper sun is sinking low”.
Karen Zoid: “The Crossing is a song about bravery and acceptance and being able to navigate difficult times because of the love inside that drives you to keep bearing forward.
“We, as friends and fans of Johnny sing his words back at him, to pay respect to him and express our love to him for his humanity and bravery. You have inspired us to do our best Johnny!”
And therein lies the magic. This song isn’t about a Joburg boy who found his soul in the music of the mines.
This song is about us. When 50 voices roared - Johnny Clegg wasn’t in the room. But what a vast team he had ignited
Changing the world is a team sport. Teams galvanised - often - by one-in-a-million individuals.
With that rarest of skill: To lead. By inspiring. Forever.
Who draw out our precious best.
Even - once they’re gone.
That is The Crossing.