Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Empowered by Song Johnny Clegg's Lyrics Grow More Personal, Less Political

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Empowered by Song Johnny Clegg's Lyrics Grow More Personal, Less Political

Article excerpt

JOHNNY CLEGG is expanding his writing palette. The British-born South African musician-songwriter and his band Savuka have recently released a fourth album, "Heat, Dust and Dreams."

Ever interested in crossing musical boundaries, Clegg describes the recording as a "Zulu-English-Celtic-Rock mixture." It's no wonder his wife calls him "e-Clegg-tic."

Musically, the record is more guitar-oriented than the group's previous albums, which relied on keyboard. But the most noticeable change is in lyric content. Mr. Clegg, who has traditionally used songs as an opportunity for political comment - specifically against Apartheid - has decided to broaden and personalize his subject matter. He still incorporates Zulu into his lyrics, but the fact that three songs on the current album have nothing to do with South Africa is significant, Clegg acknowledged during a phone interview from New York.

"My politics have moved away from the huge historical, social, and political currents to more personal politics in which the bigger questions are also framed," Clegg says. " `Heat, Dust and Dreams' is about change, essentially."

His songwriting is less about political issues, such as detention without trial or Nelson Mandela and the right of blacks to vote, than it is about "the political to the personal or the political in the personal," he says.

"I believe in empowerment, in people, in individuals," Clegg continues. "I think that's the most powerful kind of political engagement, but it has nothing to do with politics per se. It's got to do with giving people a sense of confidence in who and what they are. And that often comes from letting them know that their confusion is not abnormal - that most people go through their lives with a very deep-down questioning of who they are, where they're going, what the purpose of all their life is and will be or has been. …

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