Juluka

Universal Men

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Universal Men, Juluka's 1979 debut album (belatedly released in the U.S. in 1992), was a remarkable document for its time. Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu achieved a canny mixture of Western folk-rock and Zulu chant, creating a pop hybrid like nothing that had been heard before, even if the flute and sax solos of Robbie Jansen, playing against the acoustic guitars and Clegg's reedy voice, sometimes suggested Jethro Tull. And Clegg, Mchunu, and company were just as ambitious lyrically, constructing a concept record about the life of a South African migrant worker who played into the band's social consciousness and pan-African nationalism, notably in the song "Africa," which became one of their signature tunes. In retrospect, Universal Men is not as impressive as later Juluka albums that expanded upon its basic formula, but it retains historical importance as a major document in African popular music and thus an influence on world popular music, leading to the development of mbaqanga. And those Zulu choruses are catchy, too.

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