South Africa's World Music Star and Activist Johnny Clegg Performs Live at Mesa Arts Center Tonight
International world music star Johnny Clegg's four-decade-plus career has generated enough memorable personal and political songs to attract a global audience, sell more than five million albums, and help change the culture of his adopted South African homeland through his music and apartheid-defying integrated bands despite restrictive performance laws and airplay bans. Clegg performs at Mesa Arts Center, tonight, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Piper Repertory Theater. Tickets are available through the Box Office at mesaartscenter.com or by calling 480-644-6500.
On April 29, Appleseed Recordings will release Best, Live & Unplugged at the Baxter Theatre, Cape Town, the recording of a special acoustic concert by Johnny and four of his band members in Fall 2013 that presents new live arrangements of sixteen songs spanning his work with the groundbreaking groups Juluka and Savuka, and his subsequent solo releases, sung in a mixture of English and Zulu. Clegg's previous album, Human, was released on Appleseed in 2010. "Where he often wrote in the past about the personal and social dynamics of the struggle for freedom and political equality, many of the songs on Human now center more on finding identity, understanding or love in a rapidly shifting landscape," wrote Los Angeles Times reviewer Randy Lewis. The songs Johnny writes and performs combine modern Western instrumentation, yearning, passionate vocals, and a strong undercurrent of African rhythms.
Among the songs on the new CD are Johnny's best-known composition, "Scatterlings of Africa," originally recorded with Juluka in 1982, "Woza Friday" (originally released as a single in 1976) and "Asimbonanga," written about Nelson Mandela, the South African political leader who was jailed for years by the country's repressive government before his 1990 release. Clegg performed at all four of Mandela's "46664 Aids Awareness Concerts" in South Africa, where Mandela joined him during a live rendition of "Asimbonanga," and in Norway. "Mandela," the poem Clegg wrote and recited at the December 2013 Cape Town Mandela Memorial Day after the South African leader's death, electrified the Cape Town Stadium crowd.
Clegg (vocals, guitar, concertina, melodica) has undertaken his longest of many North American tours to date, from March 14 to May 10, 2014, leading the six-piece Johnny Clegg Band in concerts that will contain electric and acoustic segments and a tribute to the late Mandela. Johnny's 25-year-old son Jesse, an accomplished musician with a gold record in South Africa already to his credit, will be the opening act on most tour dates. Johnny's new CD will be available for sale at all concerts.
British-born, South African-raised Clegg, nicknamed "The White Zulu" in France, one of his popular strongholds, has accumulated such honors as the 1988 Mayor's Office of Los Angeles Award for promoting racial harmony, the 1990 Humanitarian Award from Ohio's Secretary of State, the 1994 Billboard award for the Best World Music Album, numerous medals of honor from French cities, honorary doctorates from the City University of New York and Dartmouth College in the US, and he was named Knight of Arts and Letters by the French government. In 2012, he received the South African Presidential Ikhamanga Award, the highest honor a citizen can receive there.
Mesa Arts Center is located at One East Main Street in downtown Mesa.