we played those songs live and took them to the people when those same
tunes were restricted or banned. Although 20 [percent] to 30 percent of
our shows were closed by the police, we still got through and gave our
audience a sense of what could be possible."
father was a journalist, it's natural to assume that the younger Clegg
may have inherited a journalistic sense of responsibility and moral
No, not at all.
"That's not the reason for what I
do," he says. "I love traditional music forms and cross-pollinating
them with other forms. That's a cultural imperative. I don't preach. I
want to practice 'thick description' [an anthropological term for
describing not just a single human behavior but also its context] in
both the personal, private universe of being human, as well as the wider
world. If at times it gets political, that's OK."
officially ended in South Africa in 1994, after the 1990 release of
Nelson Mandela and the lifting of the ban on the African National
Congress (ANC). Clegg now sees his aesthetic responsibility to his
adopted home as "examining the spaces that allow for conversation
between the diverse cultures and races in South Africa." Recent albums
such as Human and Appleseed label songs such as "Love in the
Time of Gaza" and "The World is Calling" offer positive messages through
whatever struggles are at hand.
What makes Clegg such an optimist?
comes to an end," he says. "All struggle finds its completion. The
happiest music comes out of the toughest and saddest places - the favelas
of Brazil, the townships of apartheid South Africa, and the ghettos of
Haiti. Positivity is a celebration of human spirit and ingenuity, and,
most importantly, humor.
"Humanizing oneself in dehumanized environments means not being down, but being up and bright and shiny and real."
Johnny Clegg Band and Jesse Clegg, 7 p.m. Sunday at Zellerbach Theatre,
3680 Walnut St. $55-$25. 215-898-3900, annenbergcenter.org.