Johnny Clegg is easily one of the most remarkable performers to have ever come out of South Africa. His music bonded a divided nation and impacted the lives of countless people around the world. The star recently embarked on his final tour and as his touring days come to an end, his musical journey lives on. Johnny recently released his new album ‘King Of Time’ and this week, he opens up about his current world tour, the new album and how it feels knowing he has made such a difference with his music.
You recently performed around the country during your farewell tour. How has this experience been different to other tours you’ve embarked on?
It’s a final farewell to an audience – both local and international – that I have built up over a space of four decades. So, naturally, its bittersweet. What else is special about the show is that it’s a one-of-a-kind autobiographical, audio-visual presentation and something entirely different from what I have done before.
What inspired the album’s lead single ‘King Of Time’?
I was inspired by the Zulu proverb ‘Wolibamba Ilanga Lingashoni. It means ‘grab the sun so it does not go down’. I resonated with the song and the inspiration quickly formulated into a song.
You named your album after the track. What makes it the perfect reflection of the album? What can we expect on this record?
There is a layered meaning to the album title. On the positive side, I have managed to last four decades in the music industry. I made my brand of hybrid music and pushed back against the passing fashions that time brought to the world. On the negative side, I have not been able to withstand the ravages of time on my physical body. The Final Journey performances and the ‘King Of Time’ album are, however, a statement that for now I am still standing and I am still here.
How is this album different to your previous album?
I had a young producer (Denholm Harding) bring a modern pop sensibility to my hybrid crossover style. It is a sound I have never explored before and I had a great time bringing these songs to life.
You have a song with Jesse Clegg on the album. What was it like collaborating with him?
That collaboration was an unexpected but perfect moment! I am so proud of the song and time with my son in the studio was everything I hoped it would be.
He’s also been the opening act on your world tour. What has that experience been like?
The journey has really a sort of father-son road trip. It has been a great privilege to be able to hang up my boots with my son sharing this journey with me.
Your music has left a legacy on the South African music space. How does it feel knowing your music has impacted so many people?
It’s a wonderful thing to have left a footprint and a memory in the minds of those who have enjoyed my words and music. It’s an awesome validation and it’s been such an honour creating music for the world.
Which other South African musicians do you look up to and why?
I look up to many, many musicians and bands from Harare to Bright Blue, Sipho Mabuse, the jazz group Spirits Rejoice who were the backing musicians on the first ‘Juluka’ album, Phuzushukela, Mfazi Omnyama, Phuz’ekhemnisi, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Bayede , Soul Brothers and so many more who made music that inspired a generation of musicians in the 70’s and 80s.
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