“It is music and dancing
that makes me at peace with the world
and at peace with myself.”
– Nelson Mandela
On October 14, 2017
I was in the audience at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston overwhelmed by the joyous music being performed onstage. It was Johnny Clegg and his band on his “Final Journey World Tour.” He knew he was losing his battle with pancreatic cancer and this was one last opportunity to touch minds and souls. The man was a legend.
Known As The White Zulu
Johnny, a white South African Jew, spent his life seeing the shared commonality in very different humans. As a teenager listening to Black street musicians in Johannesburg, he heard shades of Scottish and Irish Celtic rhythms. “It made me feel a conversation could be had among the two traditions.” He ultimately created multi-racial, fusion rock bands, learned traditional Zulu dances, and brought his exuberant energy to audiences around the Globe.
All Of This Was Against The Law
of course, under the apartheid regime of total racial segregation. At enormous personal risk, he was driven to become, in his words, “a cultural, rather than a political, activist. There’s something in dance, in art, in music that can make a deeper understanding of the human condition.”
is the title of Johnny’s anthem he wrote as a rallying cry in the fight against apartheid. It means “We have not seen him” and is a tribute to Nelson Mandela, who was a political prisoner for 27 years. Although alive in the hearts of many, Mandela was literally invisible. It was illegal to possess an image of his face.
Thirteen years later, at a 1999 post-apartheid concert in Hamburg, Germany, Mandela surprised everyone (including Johnny and the musicians) by walking out on stage as they played “his” song. It was completely unplanned and they had no idea he was coming. This video brings me to tears. And brings me to hope for our fractured world.
Today’s Video (6:12) Asimbonanga
In My Personal Life
music and dance are a respite, a comfort and a shortcut to joy. I play music all the time, and dance whenever I can. I get my music through Spotify, which does this fun thing called “Wrapped” at the end of the year. It gives you factoids about how and what you’ve listened to. It’s fascinating to see it all put together.
Apparently, I’ve listened to 17,243 minutes’ worth of music this year! And I guess Etta James and I had quite a thing going. My main categories are Soul, World Music, Folk Revival and Shamanic/Kirtan. I love it all!
For Your Listening Pleasure
I’ve put together 21 songs representing these four categories of worldwide music as an “End Of Year ’23 Wrap Playlist”. You can access it here on Spotify, and here on YouTube. Please consider this a gift from me to you. Check it out and let me know what you think!
And More Gifts…
Hey, it’s the holidays! What the heck, let’s go for it. Two more videos for you. A fascinating documentary about Johnny Clegg (48:37)
Johnny was also an academic, anthropologist and a great storyteller. Here are some of his best, presenting as a visiting Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College. Skip the very long intro and start at: 7:45.
Finding The Joy
is not necessarily easy. And this year feels harder than ever. And yet. This is what we need to do. May we continue to remember our shared humanity. May we seek to understand the “other” and not demonize them.
May we look for and find our joys, both personal and shared, wherever we can. I so appreciate you being in this community with me. And reading my words. Thank you.
Dance on, My Friends.
From my home to yours.
From my heart to yours.
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