The sounds of South Africa filled World Café Live on Sunday. March 30th, with a performance by Britsh born, South African singer-songwriter Johnny Clegg and his band. Playing before a sold-out crowd, Clegg and his five piece band spun tales in English and African tongues with an unparalleled joy and enthusiasm. For 100-plus minutes, the 60-year-old Clegg paraded about with the energy of a man half his age. Showing off Zulu dance moves that involved high kicks while dancing in step with his longtime bandmate Mandisa Dianga, Clegg demonstrated his mastery of music. His thoughtful proclamations of the power of music bridging the gap between cultures were exemplified in the concertina he had modified to meet the specifications of African sensibilities, and his stories of first playing live when integrated bands were banned from public performances in South Africa.
Despite most of the crowd being restricted to their seats, there was an electrifying energy throughout that inspired clapping, dancing and singing. Clegg knows how to end the show with an encore that began with the glorious tribute to Nelson Mandela “Asimbonanga (Mandela)” and ended with “Dela (I Know Why the Dog Howls at the Moon).” Closing a night of rich emotion that is unique to the greatest music can offer with lyrics as powerful and universal as “I’ve been waiting day and night, I burn for you” was quite poignant. Clegg, currently on what he declared to be his most extensive United States tour ever, will certainly make many yearn for his music, live or recorded.
Clegg’s son Jesse opened with a fantastic acoustic set.