Photo by Marguerite de Villiers
According to Los Angeles Times 13-10-2017
During his 40-plus year career, South African musician Johnny Clegg has pursued to discover links between body and spirit between aspirations and reality, between politics and society.
That search, which often demonstrated in deep performances in which he selected Zulu dance traditions he began studying as a teenager, has turned that much deeper in two years since he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“I’m not looking for some purposes truth about my life”, Clegg,64 said recently by phone from his home in Johannesburg, just before heading out for a limited North America tour he has labelled “The final journey.”
Through his countless musical links- from his first band to gain disrepute, Juluka, and then Savuka, to the last couple of years touring and recording under his own name- Clegg has facilitated widen the horizon for incalculable listeners within and outside his native land with his catching blend of Western rock and African traditional music.
But his cancer, which is in the reduction following surgery and rounds of chemotherapy, has become the crucial round of shows abroad while he is feeling strong enough to weather the severities of international travel.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen – nobody knows”, he said.
“But while I’m sturdy and able to do stuff, I sought to do a nice, big Final journey tour.” That tour opens Saturday in Boston and contains 13 shows in a dozen cities in the U.S and Canada, reaching Southern California for an Oct 30 date at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego.
One of the exposures for him has been the transformative influence his music has not just on audiences but on himself.
“I have appalling neuropathy,” he said. “As a dancer, it’s been a real trial, and some night I’ve forced my way through it. Sometimes I feel like I’m on the ice, or like I’m walking on coals, and it’s totally agonising. I feel like an Indian fire walker."
“But when I get onstage, something changes all those messages off,” he said “I do the show, and then I pay the price a little bit later. But you know what? It’s the most amazing revolution. And I’d rather have my feet on fire a bit after than the other way around. I’m very, very Zulu in my headspace on that: I’m feeling good and very lucky and fortunate to do this now.”
He’s conveyed by several musicians who have been at his side for 10 or 20 years or more, including singer Mandisa Dlanga, who has been in his touring band since the 1980s and guitarist Andy Innes, who has been along for the trip for a quarter century. His band includes his 29-year-old son Jess, whom he sang about shortly after he was born in 1988 Album 'Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World.'
Johnny Clegg said his show “is an autobiography story. There’s an audio-visual section to it that’s a significant part of the show. I have an overall idea of what I want to say, and every night it’s different.”
A momentous part of Clegg’s story is creating the first interracial rock band in South Africa in the 1970s when any such collaboration among races was still illegal under the country’s apartheid system of institutional separation.
Clegg on occasion had run-ins with the law for working together with black musicians but persevered.
Over a duration of five months recently, he recorded a new studio album, 'King of Time', which is due for release to concur with the North American tour.
Of the title track, Clegg said. "Musically it’s very danceable mix of dance music and Zulu concertina and Western melodies with some Zulu chants. The title means ‘I lasted.’ For four decades. It’s about how one deals with the passage of time and how one can reconfigure time. To reawaken yourself over a decade is a great contest."
He also recorded a new live album his recent shows in Europe and expects that collection to be released in the months ahead.