You can call Johnny Clegg a lot of things: English-born, South African-raised, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, dancer, activist, anthropologist, a knight in two countries, even “Le Zulu Blanc.” For the next few months, you can also call him on tour. And if you’re in New York, at B.B. King Blues Club on March 31 and April 1, you can call him whatever you want to in person.
When Clegg played at City Winery back in 2012, Afropop’s Banning Eyre found the musician leading “a lean, electric guitar-based, six-piece outfit.” He was there with a new album called Human but played a selection of music that, Eyre said, worked “as a time capsule, evoking the dark days of apartheid when Juluka was brave and controversial, as well as the solemn ecstasy of the early Mandela era, and its murky aftermath.”
It’ll be interesting to see what Clegg has planned for this tour, but it kicked off–pointedly–in Birmingham, AL on March 17, before heading down to Florida and back up to North Carolina en route to New York. America’s racial tension has not gone unnoticed on the international scale, and Clegg’s tour materials reference how his music, made with South Africa’s first interracial band, was part of the protests against the apartheid government.
In the tradition of African musicians parlaying their music into family affairs, Johnny’s son, singer-songwriter and guitarist Jesse Clegg, will be the opening act at all shows. Clegg-the-Younger has recorded two well-received albums and four South African top 10 singles to date.