Search - Juluka :: Universal Men

Universal Men
Universal Men
Genres: World Music, Pop
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #1


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CD Details

All Artists: Juluka
Title: Universal Men
Members Wishing: 5
Total Copies: 0
Label: Priority Records
Release Date: 4/16/1995
Genres: World Music, Pop
Style: Africa
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 049925714425, 049925714449, 6001210257431

CD Reviews

Juluka's first, Easily and Cheaply Available
John Kleynhans | San Diego | 08/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Juluka, originally consisting of Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu, released this pioneering abum in 1979, despite censorship and banning, where their music was spread by word of mouth and live performance.In Apartheid South Africa, where Radio and TV was completely controlled by the Regime, their music was challenging to the "authorities" of the time due to their amazing blending of black and white lyrics and music styles.

Without exaggeration, this album marks a defining moment in the history of world music. It wasn't until their following album : "African Litany" that they began to break through in South Africa though. Unbelievable stuff !

Today Clegg is very well known in many parts of Europe, especially France, where he could be considered a household name.

I want you all to know that it is really crazy that Juluka's CD's are so difficult to come by and unbelievably expensive used(!) here in the States, when they are so easily and cheaply available from South Africa and also Europe(if not as cheaply).
Use imagination, browse and find what your after, brand new!"
A life-affirming masterpiece
BaronFellDown | A galaxy far, far away | 01/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I find it tragic that only very, very few Amerikaaners have heard of Johnny Clegg. As an American myself. I find Clegg's messages and emotions as relevant in the culture of the United States circa 2007 Anno Domini as they must have been in South Africa almost thirty years ago when, against all odds, laws, rules, and regulations, Universal Men was conceptualized, written, recorded, and released by an upstart young band called Juluka, the two founders of which - Mr. Johnny Clegg and Mr. Sipho Mchunu - may or may not have had any idea of the ripples that their project would eventually create in South Africa and on the world music scene.

As it so happens, Universal Men is simply one of the best musical works ever created. And I'm not sure if that is in spite of its rawness and (superficial) simplicity, or rather (at least in part) because of it. I find Universal Men to be, from start to finish, a voyage in the human soul and a demonstration of the human spirit: something that South African Zulus traditionally call "ubuntu".

I'm not sure where all of this power comes from. I'm not much of a subscriber to mysticism or spirituality. But whatever the positive energy behind Universal Men and many other Juluka and Savuka songs and records is, it is an enormous contribution to the music.

The opening track, "Sky People", is weird, disconcerting, alien, and wonderful. The unusual Zulu rhythms and sounds may keep many listeners accustomed to the balls-to-the-wall rock of bands like AC/DC and Nirvana, or to the glistening pop of Michael Jackson and Madonna, or to the classical swell of Beethovan and Vivaldi, at arm's length; however, the strange language and musical culture is not as impenetrable as one might think. An open-minded listen or two could be the gateway into what is almost literally an entirely different world. Oh, and the Zulu choruses are catchy once you get used to them, and actually even before you do.

The second track is the title track, which explores the effects of British imperialism and colonialism. South Africa has been transformed. As of 2007, it is one of the most advanced developing nations in the world alongside such other countries as China, Brazil, and India; it is dominated by western cities, and of all the countries of Africa, it has been perhaps the most Westernized. Clegg, a white man of British birth and upbringing in Israel, Zimbabwe, and Zambia in addition to his "home country" of South Africa, is clearly conscious of this, singing of his nation's people: "And the songs of their fathers raise strange cities to the sky / Where they did not belong and could not belong / And they never knew why..."

I don't speak Zulu, so the meaning of the third track, "Thula 'Mtanami", eludes me. However, in the context of the album, it doesn't really matter that much that I don't know what Clegg is singing about. It features some very nice fluting and is, in fact, reminiscent of a sort of South African Jethro Tull. The language is not English and the voice is not quite Ian Anderson's, but it sounds remarkably similar...but yet dissimilar for all of its uniquely Juluka departures from that classic Jethro Tull sound. The similarities do help it in being more accessible to such fans of that particular brand of 1970s-1980s English progressive rock.

I'm not sure if I can say enough about "Deliwe", track number four on Universal Men. It's rather raw, but it is beautiful...the jaw harp, an odd and hypnotic instrument periodically featured on various Johnny Clegg tracks, is featured prominently. The Zulu guitar style is also perhaps more evident on "Deliwe" than on the album's other tracks. To the ears of this American, "Deliwe" is strange and wonderful, with a mostly-English-language message still readily understandable and easy to sympathize with.

"Unkosibomvu - The Red King" is probably the track that will stand out the most to non-African listeners as pretty darn bizarre. It starts off with some gradually building, increasingly complex tribal drumming. As the percussion swells, a purposeful acoustic guitar comes in, followed shortly by Clegg's reedy, distinctive vocals. The song's lyrics are almost entirely in English, although the lyric sheet would be a handy reference for knowing what they are. Although Johnny Clegg's ability to move seamlessly through octaves in single passages is consistently amazing and practically impossible to replicate if you're trying to sing along, it is particularly noteworthy here: he just keeps dropping lower and lower with an almost sly tone in his voice. Aside from being primarily in English, "Unkosibomvu" is decidedly African and bears little of the Western pop/rock influence prevalant (and, in 1979, unprecedented) in most of the other tracks.

The next song, "Africa", is just about anthemic; Clegg would later rewrite the song, keeping the same chorus, and release it as "Africa (What Made You So Strong)" on the Johnny Clegg & Savuka compilation In My African Dream. I prefer this version, though the reworked Savuka version is also nice. "And so he walked in the fashion of his lands / Until at last he cried out / 'Can anybody hear me, hear me, hear the song in my heart?'" Top-notch songwriting on this track. If Universal Men has any true "standout tracks", this song is definitely one of them.

"Unthando Luphelile" has a Zulu title and a Zulu chorus, but English verses. As with "Unkosibomvu", a lyric sheet to follow along is a good idea; unlike "Unkosibomvu", "Unthando Luphelile" shows clear Western musical influences. It has almost a dance-pop bounce to it. It's easily the most aggressive-sounding song on the album, and from the viewpoint of an American or European, the most danceable. The lyrics are ever-so-slightly cheesy in places, but pretty darn cool in others. It's not the best song on the album, but there is no worst song either.

The song "Old Eyes" might take a bit of warming up to; it did for me. Recently, it happened to "click", and now it's one of my very favorites. The lyrics are deceptively beautiful. It combines English and Zulu lyrics with an ease that is a clear pointer to the future of Juluka, in which the majority of songs combine English and Zulu language so cleanly that it is far from impossible to simply forget lack of Zulu fluency and sing along anyway.

Some may argue that "Inkunzi Ayihlabi Ngokumisa" is an anticlimactic end to the album; maybe it is, but I find myself taken with the sheer beauty of the song. Sipho Mchunu takes lead vocals on it; his voice is high but still a croon. It's as if he is simply taking three minutes to sing Universal Men to sleep, backed by Clegg's quiet jaw harp, guitar, backing vocals, and occasional well-timed harmonization.

The high price of buying a hard copy of Universal Men does not necessarily preclude you from buying it, and I highly recommend that you do; it is available from the iTunes Music Store in a slightly touched-up and remastered form for less than US$9. Of course, it's preferable to some people to have the "real thing" in its original U.S. release version, physical CD and booklet and jewel case and unenhanced production and all, in which case: go ahead, order it online! More power to you!

The best thing to do, though, to get Universal Men cheap: go to South Africa and buy it there."