Johnny Clegg. Picture: Henk Kruger
Johnny Clegg. Picture: Henk Kruger
Johnny Clegg. Picture: Antoine De Ras
Johnny Clegg. Picture: Antoine De Ras
Johnny Clegg. Picture: Antoine De Ras
Johnny Clegg. Picture: Antoine De Ras
To announce his last time on stage, Johnny Clegg held press conferences at which he spoke at length about his Final Journey World Tour - necessitated by his pancreatic cancer being in remission.

He’s adding one more Johannesburg date on November 11, when he will perform with his friends in music: Karen Zoid, Prime Circle, DJ Kent and Parlotones, among others.

He seemed tired, but still enthusiastic to go down memory lane. As someone who calls cancer a “sentence”, I got the impression he was pre-occupied by his mortality. So I asked him about something we all do in order to get away from our own realities.

I asked him what series he loves to binge-watch.

“I love National Geographic and The History Channel,” he said, smiling.

“But in terms of series, I watch with my wife because she wants me to watch with her. She likes the cop dramas, NCIS, Blue Bloods, those shows. I like reality. I watch animals and crime and world wars and survival. For a lot of these shows, you have to suspend your belief and I find that hard.”

Johnny Clegg. Picture: Supplied

I mentioned that it’s probably hard to suspend belief because his own life has been so adventurous - and thus, so real.

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A white boy who took a liking to maskandi and then went on to co-found politically polarising bands like Juluka and Savuka before establishing a still-thriving solo career, Clegg has lived.

“Juluka did a lot of political support work,” Clegg told me.

“For instance, we did shows to raise funds for black people who were being evicted from downtown Johannesburg. When we did those type of shows, we’d leave guards by our car because otherwise you’d come back and the tyres would be slashed.

“We also did the End Conscription Campaign, which was to stop the conscription of white males into the South African army because they were being used to support the whole apartheid edifice

“When I was teaching at Wits, I had a break-in in my car. They emptied out my cubbyhole and put everything neatly on the driver’s seat which was a message to say we can get to you wherever, however. They had a lot of psychological tricks.”

Johnny Clegg. Picture: Supplied

A lot of those experiences have, over the years, fuelled the kinds of songs Clegg writes. On his upcoming album, King of Time, he has a song co-written with his son, Jesse, and Clegg believes the parts Jesse wrote are secretly about him.

There are rumours of Black Coffee’s midas touch on this album. But, more interestingly, there is talk of hip hop influences on the album.

Clegg laughed when I mentioned this.

“I have a song where I rap, but it’s a musical rap. It’s called King of Time. It’s a new direction for me - a talk-sing-rap.”

He will likely give a taste of this on the Final Journey World Tour, which will also take in places like the UK and Australia.

Once the tour is over, he aims to write a memoir.

Before we wrapped up our one-on-one, he suddenly remembered something. “Wait, you know what I do enjoy,” he asked me. “True Detective. I believe the human soul is always searching for redemption and that’s what the show is about. But I don’t like season two,” he shakes his head in annoyance.

“They’ve made it so complicated and unbelieveable now.”

* Catch Johnny Clegg’s Final Journey World Tour at The Ticketpro Dome on November 11. Tickets at Computicket.

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