Johnny Clegg:2016 – Review

Words: Chiedza Hamadziripi

The ‘White-Zulu’ returns with an unapologetically avant-garde fifth collaborative studio album.

JC purists will make a case for his classic hits to remain untouched, preserved relics. Johnny Clegg himself thankfully shares no such notion. With over 40 years producing chart topping hits, his quirky brand of afro-pop continues its evolution. JOHNNY CLEGG: 2016 endorses a new wave of club producers to reinvent Clegg’s classic singles into fresh, larger-than-life dance floor anthems.

Clegg speaking about this project states, “Each song has a different contributor and (this) creates a really interesting set of approaches to my music and gives (the songs) a new audience whilst expanding their interpretation and musical horizon. I hope my audience enjoys this collection”. 

Opening up the 17 track oeuvre is ‘Take My Heart Away’. A song about following your dreams and yearning for something better than what the world is showing. Keeping the original Zulu guitar and choruses intact, it is blessed, beautiful, and simple.

On Protoculture’s remix of ‘Scatterlings’. Clegg croons ‘Copper sun sinking low/ Scatterlings and fugitives/ Hooded eyes and weary brows/ Seek refuge in the night’. Goosebumps. Protoculture is experienced enough to draw the right balance between dance and the softer nuance of fragile humanity expressed by Clegg.

Electronic wizards Pascal and Pearce’s take on ‘Great Heart’ is HUGE. They transform an old favourite into an epic EDM anthem. Club banger springs to mind. Andyboi’s remix of ‘Heart of the Dancer’ follows suit. It sounds like House mixed with Afro-Pop, with rapid lingual interchanges from English to Zulu in the choruses.

Rather than drain the originals of their authenticity, these reinventions expand and deepen Clegg’s work. His sound discovers new power soaring over the entrancing beatscapes of ‘Dela’ and ‘Take My Heart Away’.

We’re glad Clegg did not half-ass it. This was one of those projects where it had to be all or nothing. And the heavy-weight international and local electronic dance collaborations solidified this. The record is touching, animated and carries great energy. It’s an energy that has continued throughout Clegg’s five decades as a performer. Clegg capitalises on the unexpected!