Peoples Bank Theatre presents The Johny Clegg Band live in concert. Johnny Clegg is one of South Africa’s most celebrated sons. He is a singer, a songwriter, a dancer, anthropologist and a musical activist whose infectious crossover music, a vibrant blend of Western pop and African Zulu rhythms, has exploded onto the international scene and broken through all the barriers in his own country. In France, where he enjoys a massive following, he is fondly called Le Zulu Blanc – the white Zulu.
Over three decades, Johnny Clegg has sold over five million albums of his brand of crossover music worldwide. He has wowed vast audiences with his audacious live shows and won a number of national and international awards for his music and for his outspoken views on apartheid, his perspectives on migrant workers in South Africa and the general situation in the world today. Johnny Clegg’s history is as bold, colorful, and dashing as the rainbow country which he has called home for more than 40 years.
Johnny Clegg was born in Bacup, near Rochdale, England, in 1953, but was brought up in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Between his mother (a cabaret and jazz singer) and his step-father (a crime reporter who took him into the townships at an early age), Johnny was exposed to a broader cultural perspective than that available to his peers.
Whilst lecturing Anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Clegg worked on the concept of blending English lyrics and Western melodies with Zulu musical structures alongside his songwriting and performance partner, Sipho Mchunu. This blend was recognized by South African producer, Hilton Rosenthal, who became the champion of the project and who continues to promote Johnny Clegg’s work today.
Clegg and Mchunu called their band, JULUKA, which means “sweat” in Zulu. Their music was subjected to censorship and internal restrictions on the state-owned radio and their only way to access an audience was through touring. They played concerts at universities, church halls, and migrant labor hostels and in the living rooms of private houses because the law forbade mixed race performances in public venues and spaces. Juluka was most fruitful during 1982 and 1983 with tours of the USA, Canada, Germany and Scandinavia. In the six years that they were together, the band recorded two platinum and five gold albums and became an international success. Juluka split up in 1985 when Mchunu returned to his roots as a cattle farmer in Zululand.
During this time, Clegg formed another crossover band, SAVUKA (which means “we have risen”). His concept was to mix African music with a wider music base and international rock sounds. Savuka’s first album (Third World Child, 1987) broke all international sales records in France, Switzerland and Belgium in 1988. They went on to record four additional albums and tour extensively in Europe and North America, breaking all attendance records in France in 1988 and 1989.
Following a brief reunion in 1997 with his lifelong friend, Mchunu, during which Juluka released one final album, Ya Vuka Inkunzi, Clegg recorded a number of solo projects. Since 2004, he has toured Europe and North America extensively with his band, playing concerts to capacity houses and appearing at several world-famous events including the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, New Orleans Jazzfest, Festival de Cornauille –France, Festineuch in Switzerland, Musique Métisses at Angouleme (France’s premier World Music festival), Live at Sunset (Zuric), Fête de l’humanité in Paris, and Quebec Summer Festival (Festival d’eté de Québec).