With more than three decades of experience performing for global crowds, internationally acclaimed musician Johnny Clegg will bring his final world tour to Port Elizabeth next month.
After a stage two pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2015, Clegg announced in April that he would be retiring from the stage life after delivering his final offering, The Final Journey World Tour, as a parting gift for his fans.
The English-born musician grew up in his mother’s home country, Zimbabwe, and relocated at the age of nine to South Africa, where he became exposed to the different cultures of the country.
“My mother was a cabaret and jazz singer, and my stepfather was a crime reporter, so he took me into the townships at an early age, exposing me to a broader cultural perspective than that available to my peers,” Clegg said.
The Impi hitmaker is widely known for his multicultural music that earned him the French title Le Zulu Blanc (The White Zulu) from his French followers.
Clegg said coming to terms with the diagnosis was not a big struggle as he generally took everything as it came.
“I’m really just taking it one day at a time. I don’t dwell much on the questions of ‘why me?’ or ‘why now?’, but Ngidla lokhu uNkulunkulu anginikeze khona (I eat what the Lord has served me),” he said.
Clegg began playing the Zulu guitar at the age of 14, a skill that led to him forming a close friendship with Sipho Mchunu, who would become his songwriting and performing partner.
The two caught the attention of South African producer Hilton Rosenthal, who signed them to his record label as the Juluka band.
While Clegg used his music as a rule-breaker against the segregation laws of the apartheid era, the anthropologist said it was not a planned career.
“I was just doing music for the love of it. Sipho and I both had day jobs and music was just a thing that we loved until people started to really love it too and we decided to leave our careers and tour the world with our music,” he said.
Before becoming a full-time musician, Clegg was an anthropology lecture at Wits University, where he studied socio-anthropology.
After Juluka split up in 1985, Clegg formed a crossover band, Savuka, and later pursued a solo career during which he released four albums.
His latest offering, King of Time, was released in October.
He said while his life might be cut short, he believed he had lived it to the best of his abilities.
“I’m glad to have lived such a life at a time where not much could be achieved through music and I advise all [current and future] musicians to use all the advantages they have to communicate important messages and start conversations that need to be had.”
Upon concluding his last tour, the musician plans to maintain his health while doing private shows, teaching and writing his autobiography.
The Port Elizabeth leg of The Final Journey World Tour will be at the Boardwalk ICC at 8pm on January 26 and 27 and at 5pm on January 28. Tickets are available at Computicket from R375.