SA Artists in London
THE GATHERING OF THE SCATTERLINGS
Johnny Clegg @ The Hammersmith Carling Apollo, London, 7 June 2004
'Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!'. It's hot. Savuka - Sweat. 'Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!'. Asimbonanga, we have not seen him. 'Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!'. Don't touch the atmosphere - Danger! Gevaar! Ingozi! 'Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!' It's louder, it's growing till the light momentarily fades and a deafening wave engulfs the faithful. 'JOHNNY! JOHNNY! JOHNNY!'. Bodies press close in the heat, necks crane for glimpses. 'Hello? I'm at a Johnny Clegg Concert. I SAID I'M AT A JOHNNY CLEGG CONCERT!!!'. Hold the phone for all to hear, can't hear me, only 'Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!'.
I'm no longer searching for the spirit of the Great Heart, it's here (and hear) in the heat in the heart of London. A pulsating throng cajoling 'Asimbonanga', pleading 'Scatterlings'!!! DEMANDING 'IMPI'!!!. I think I know why the dog howls at the moon. Do I? Do I care? I know why we howl at the man, howl with the man. Karaoke never felt so good. 'Dela'. We wave in time, mass aerobics. Words, rhythms, sounds cascade over us. We hear Africa, we see brightness, we breathe sunshine. We are sitting on the top of Kilimanjaro (but don't hear it).
'Steven Biko' - a roar, at last a hero to the pale. The white black's back and white backs black. 'All Along the River' - a flood of emotion and voices. We are Impi, we are warriors of the beat. We are dance warriors as we jostle with each other for our allotted space.
'Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Johnny! Johnny! Johnny!' Two score years and ten (plus one for the road, on the road) today. White Zulu 51 years young. He's moved, we're moved, we move. Hambile - The Dance, you know...THE dance. A frenzy as the drum speaks and the dancers move menacingly.
Well did you evah? No, not like this, not quite so intense, so together, the crowd, the band the music, the rhythms as one. One heaving, dancing, singing, shouting peaceful militants mass. The rainbow man reigns supreme.
JOHNNY B EXCELLENT
My hands are sore from clapping, my throat is raw from singing and if the Hammersmith Apollo wasn't an all seating venue I would probably have put my back out trying some high kicking Zulu dancing, and do I care? Hell no, I've just watched Johnny Clegg.
He may have aged a bit, lost some hair, gained a few kilo's and the dancing is more sedate than what we have been used to, but the power and the passion is still there in the music. The crowded venue was on its feet throughout, dancing and singing along to a greatest hits (Juluka & Savuka) package of life and Africa, wrapped in pure energy. Roars of appreciation went up as favourites were recognised and none more so than for 'Impi', where the proverbial roof was raised, rarely have I seen one song so eagerly anticipated and so gratefully received.
After the first few songs, he slowed the pace with a sit down acoustic set, starting with 'African Sky Blue' that had us immediately standing again and singing 'Ian Botham' along with his 'yum bo hum'. An interesting addition to the Johnny Clegg sound was some jazzy interludes during one or two of the songs. This was slightly at odds with the driving Afro rock that I have been used to from him but added a new dimension to his music.
The South African press in London seems to be currently bombarded with letters from ex-pats who love South Africa, but only the old South Africa. However it was heartening to hear the roar that went up when, for his encore he launched into one of his most moving songs, 'Asimbonanga' and it was lump in the throat time when he came to the 'role of honour' bit and cheers went up for Steven Biko and Victoria Mxgenge. His intros to the various songs gave insight to the songs' meanings and inspirations as well as giving us a good helping of social and political messages, without pushing the impatient in the audience too far.
From what I witnessed tonight, it is no small wonder than Johnny Clegg has been one of South Africa's most successful artists on the international stage. His powerful sounds and lyrics helped many of us through the dark days of apartheid, yet such is the depth of his songs that 7 years after the fall of apartheid, they still sound fresh and relevant.
Full marks to the sponsors, 1st Contact for a well organised concert, full marks to the audience for their response, and of course full marks to Johnny for giving his all. Nkosi si'kelele iJohnny Clegg.
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