White Zulu rock n’ roller, Johnny Clegg, is in the midst of his The Final Journey World Tour. From the moment he stepped on stage and opened his mouth with a burst of “Afrika kukhala abangcwele” Clegg proved, at age 64, he can still bring the house down. With his cancer in remission, he rocked the Teatro at Montecasino on Thursday night. Backed by his ever-so-tight band, lead female vocalist who has been with him since the ‘80s and about 15 members of the Soweto Gospel Choir, it was a night one hoped would never end.
The night was a very personal one during which he retraced his development as a musician from a teen in Joburg who wandered into the mens’ mining hostels to dance with the Zulu workers housed there—something unimaginable in the 1970’s South Africa. And learn he did! To conserve his energy he brought on dancers who were the sons of the men with whom he used to dance. But the impulse runs deep in him and Clegg would burst into short bursts of intense leg flipping dance afterwards panting at the mic—exhilarating and unnerving. By the end of the show, the urge was too great and he performed a full-on Zulu dance to wild crowd appreciation.
Stage sized rear screen projections of him Zulu dancing with his mentor, the late Dudu Ndlovu, both dressed in traditional regalia reminded one of what he was capable of as a strong young man and how he refuses to let his aging and ailing body let him down.
It was a brilliant night that I wished would go on and on. Yet when we had to leave after several moving encores, we left with a marvelous shared experience reminding one of a clip of Nelson Mandela projected during in the show in which he said “Music and dance are what make me feel alive.” We all left very very alive and with a tinge of hope in these very troubled political times in South Africa……..
Clegg will be in Toronto at Koerner Hall on October. Buy a ticket NOW if there are any left. Check his website for other cities on the tour. A few weeks ago, we met an American by chance here at a bush pub. He lives in Dubai and had never heard of Clegg but I knew that Dubai one of the stops on Clegg’s final tour and told him he simply had to go. This is his last chance and your last chance to be loved by Johnny Clegg. Don’t miss him.