More than a musician, South African guitarist Johnny Clegg is a singer, songwriter, anthropologist and musical activist, celebrating his 30 years as a musician with “Spirit is the Journey-The 30th Anniversary Tour” and a performance at Edmonds Center for the Arts this Thursday April 28, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.ec4arts.org or by phone 425-275-9595. Ticket prices are $15-$40.
Born in England but raised in his mother’s native land of Zimbabwe, Johnny was exposed to a broader cultural perspective than that available to his peers. While lecturing on 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. This unique sound was recognized by South African producer Hilton Rosenthal, who became the champion of the project and drove it with passion and commitment. He signed up Johnny and Sipho Mchunu (his songwriting and performance partner at the time) to his independent label at a time when mixing music was effectively unprofitable because of the radio censorship of mixed music and mixed bands.
In 1986, Clegg wrote his international hit “Asimbonanga” partly in Zulu, the language of the largest ethnic group in the country, in defiance of Apartheid rule and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. Although it was immediately banned from South African radio, South Africans embraced it once they were able to hear it, years after its original release.
This tour highlights Clegg’s musical and cultural influences over the past three decades, as well as the extraordinary events that have made him an international superstar. Clegg tells his story using amusing anecdotes and historical bits and pieces, along with songs from his first US album in 17 years, Human.