A MUSICIAN, who performed in defiance of racial barriers imposed by the apartheid system in South Africa, has died after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Bacup-born Johnny Clegg died in his Johannesburg home surrounded by his family on Wednesday at the age of 66.

His mother was a jazz singer from Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia). After his parents divorced during his early childhood, she took him to live in Zimbabwe.

The singer, sometimes called the “White Zulu”, gained an international following through his multi-racial bands during a white minority rule in South Africa.

He crafted hits inspired by Zulu and township harmonies, as well as folk and other influences.

One of his best-known songs is Asimbonanga, which means “We’ve never seen him” in Zulu.

It refers to South Africans during apartheid when images of then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela were banned.

Mr Mandela was released in 1990 after 27 years in prison and became South Africa’s first black president in all-race elections four years later.

Mr Clegg’s manager, Roddy Quin, said Grammy-nominated Clegg “impacted millions of people around the world.”

He said: “He played a major role in South Africa getting people to learn about other people’s cultures and bringing people together.”

The performer had been diagnosed with cancer in 2015, and the gruelling treatment included two six-month sessions of chemotherapy and an operation.

But he still performed up until 2017.

On hearing his death, the South African government tweeted: “Johnny Clegg -one of South Africa’s most celebrated sons.

“He was a singer, a songwriter, a dancer, anthropologist whose infectious crossover music exploded onto the international scene and contributed towards social cohesion.”