I remember growing up in the 70s and my parents listening to 8 track tapes – it was a time of bell bottoms and platform shoes, a colourful time of fashion. Net ‘n Bietjie Liefde, Flink Dink, MacGyver and Dallas were firm favourites on television. It was a different time back then in our country. Certain programs and music was not allowed to be aired on our radios or television due to Apartheid.
A man who was arrested for his music at the time learnt to dance the Zulu dance (Inhlangwini) – he was taught to play ‘ Zulu street music’ by his friend Sipho Mchunu back in 1969, whom he regularly visited down the road from where he was living in Johannesburg. Despite segregation, despite the Group Areas Act and it being illegal to mix with black people, Johnny and Sipho continued building a lifelong friendship.
His music was censored and banned and the only way to get the message of the music out there, was through live tours. He played in hostels, shabeens and public arenas throughout S.A. despite it being illegal at the time. His journey has taken him accross several continents – he has shared his storytelling with the world.
The name of this man is Johnny Clegg. His music brings elements of African/Folk/Celtic and Pop, which certainly was and has always been uniquely different – then again there is only one Johnny Clegg.
Excitement bubbled within me at the thought of finally getting to see this man, the man who embraces the many faceted cultures of our land and people, a colourful and vibrant soul. Attending his Final Journey World Tour at Grand West Casino was one of the highlights of my life, one that will never be forgotten. As we sat mesmerized by Johnny Clegg and his band, we were partakers of moments in history, a story that unfolded before our eyes through Johnnys’ music, dance and video presentation. Snippets of history flashed before our eyes – it felt like 35 years of moments we had lived through and these moments were right there in front of us to see. I felt like I was a part of it – that watching this was like a dream – when you wake up, you know you have been there before! It was an emotional rollercoaster ride and his storytelling gripped me.
A special highlight of the evening was when Johnny’s son, Jesse Clegg joined him on the stage and they sang a song together. It was a special moment knowing that the band members had walked this journey with him for many years.
Johnny Clegg has lived it, he has danced it, he has voiced it through his music.
My one regret walking away on Saturday evening was knowing that this was my first and last time experiencing this. As a photographer, it was also a moment which I couldn’t capture on my camera – only on my cellphone. Some moments are best captured in your heart and mind and these will forever remain there.
I have seen, I have heard and I have felt! Thank you Johnny Clegg.