It was a bitter-sweet evening as Johnny Clegg performed his last show and biggest production for 10 000 people on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at the Ticket Pro Dome in Johannesburg. The time has come for Johnny Clegg to hang up his Gumba Gumba Jive dancing shoes after 40 years.
A man with unbelievable courage and vision delivered his autobiography show. A profound journey in a diverse South African culture, how he captured the true spirit of “his” South Africa over four decades and brought SA culture into a new space. Talking about his first song, Woza Friday (was his first hit 1976) was banned on radio stations as well as performances in public places due to the cultural apartheid system in the 1970’s. Now, at the end of four decades, he is embraced by the world. Heartfelt farewell video messages were screened from his dear friends that were unable to attend the final concert: Sipho Hotstix Mabuse, Sting, as well as Joan Armatrading.
A handful of special friends and musical icons joined Johnny on stage for the final bow. Stellar performances by Tailor, Arno Carstens, Parlotones, Sipho Mchunu, Prime Circle and Just Jinger.
Tailor opened the show, followed by long-time friend Arno Carstens singing Another Universe that was quite fitting. Parlotones performed Push Me To The Floor.
Long-standing band member and founder of Juluka, Sipho Mchunu sang Emadlozini and African Skye Blue.
Prime Circle nailed Breathing and new track 'Weapons Of War'.
Just Jinger took everyone’s breath away with 'Shallow Waters' and 'What It Means'.
To lift the mood, when Impi was performed, the aisles were filled with dancing crowds. One of the fans dressed in proper Zulu warrior headgear embraced his African pride.
Support performances by his backing vocalist Mandisa Dhlanga, the majestic Soweto Gospel Choir, traditional Zulu dancers in their regalia, Panstula dancers in their typical pair of ‘All-Stars’, encapsulated true dance spirit of the crowd.
During the show, we got lost in moments. However, it was hard to hold back the tears and a lump in my throat when Jesse joined his father on stage. They collaborated on I’ve Been Looking a profound song on both their albums. They have never performed on stage together until now, an agreement between them to never play together or on the same line-up after each other. Their faces lit up during the performance, but there were heaps of emotions being held back.
For the encore, all performers gathered on stage for the final bow, with tears in their eyes during 'Asimbonanga'. I am not sure how musicians tap into their songwriting moments or how the creative juices flow and when, but what I do know is that these profound composers will leave a legacy in South African music.
The style of music has changed substantially over 40 years, yet the spark within Johnny has not faded. He opened his soul for three hours for his final concert in true Johnny Clegg style of Inhlangwinini dancing, singing, embracing the diversity “his” people.
Johnny has just released his new album 'KING OF TIME', produced by Denholm Harding of Just Jinger. Denholm has an incredible ear and has also produced the new Prime Circle album 'IF YOU DON’T YOU NEVER WILL'.
Johnny Clegg may be retiring, but his style of music will continue to live on amongst our diverse culture. Wonderboom still rock their rendition of “Africa” which leaves the crowd amped and fist pumping.
And, when you are sitting at the top of 'Kilimanjaro', it will still be under African sky. Thank you for your unique style and contribution to the music industry. A remarkable and momentous end off.
Farewell, Johnny Clegg!
Photo Credit: Tarryne Rautenbach