Johnny Clegg’s new album puts a fresh spin on old classics

South African musical legend Johnny Clegg has just released a new album, simply titled Johnny Clegg: 2016.

Johnny Clegg has just released a new album of remixes.
Johnny Clegg has just released a new album of remixes.

Comprised of some of his best loved classics - including ‘Great Heart’, ‘Scatterlings of Africa’, ‘Take My Heart Away’ and many others - this 17-track release boasts some of the freshest remixes that not only pay homage to the original hits, but transform them into fresh, larger-than-life dance-floor anthems at the hands of some of the finest global EDM producers.

Clegg, who has topped charts around the world for over 40 years and in 2015 received an OBE from the Queen of England, is no stranger to moving with the times, yet his repertoire has many loyal fans hesitant as to whether or not his tracks will benefit from, or indeed even require remixing. For some, the truth is that they don’t; they are and always will be remarkably strong pop songs. Johnny Clegg: 2016 only goes to prove just how accessible these songs from the 80s, 90s and early millennium truly are. What these remixes do generate is a freshness that will not only appeal to die-hard Clegg fans, but see new audiences relating to his songwriting.

Clegg himself has been excited about this project, recently telling the media: “As a singer/songwriter with published works going back as far as 1976, I have always been fascinated and moved by other artists who have covered my work in some way, whether using my lyrics or doing their own versions of my songs.  This set of dance mixes is particularly exciting because my song structures have often been a bit complicated, with lots of bridges, pre-choruses and a strong cultural crossover using characteristic Zulu and other ethnic influences. 

“Each song has a different contributor and so creates a really interesting set of approaches to my music and gives them a new audience whilst expanding their interpretation and musical horizon. I hope my audience enjoys this collection!” 

Johnny Clegg: 2016 boasts some heavy-weight international and local electronic dance talent including High Society from the UK, internationally successful South Africans Protoculture, Pascal & Pearce, BreakDLaw and Bobby Summerfield, as well as up-and-coming local talents Chris Sen and Andyboi.

Alongside the release of the album is the brand new video created by Clegg’s son Jaron, who studied at The Vancouver Film School and currently works in LA as a filmmaker. Clegg’s other son Jesse is a successful musician in his own right, having recently played at Bushfire in Swaziland. 

‘Take My Heart Away’ is the first single from the album and creating the accompanying video was a great experience for young Jaron.

 

When asked about making the video Jaron had this to say: “The video is based on passion and yearning to have dreams come true. It was quite an emotional project for me, making a film for my dad. I treated it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and pushed really hard to make the script come to life. I put a lot of pressure on myself to create something I could be proud of. I took away a lot of insight and skills that will be crucial as I pave my way forward as a filmmaker.”

Jaron had already created a script for a short movie he had developed, and  during the process of remixing ‘Take My Heart Away’ Johnny was imagining  a theme that reflected the overwhelming power of the human spirit and remembered Jaron's script. After some convincing, Jaron shortened the script and transformed it into a magnificent piece of art, using special CGI effects that took months to create. The effects developed included creating the South African Space Centre that we see in the film, as well as simulating rocket fire and smoke for the launch scenes. “It was challenging to streamline the visual effects work while writing, producing and directing the production,” explained Jaron.

The concept of the video is about the passion and yearning to have your dreams and your spirit take you to a better place - a central theme in much of the music and career of Johnny Clegg, who earlier this year launched a scholarship programme for students in the South Africa's North West province. The video tells the story of a young township boy who escapes his township life on a space shuttle, which literally and figuratively launches him into the next plane of existence. As Jaron so succinctly puts it, “It's a journey of transcendence!”

The video was shot outside Johannesburg at Maropeng, the Cradle of Humankind, and then moved on to Diepsloot Township for four days. For Jaron this was a humbling, eye-opening experience for him and the crew as he explains, “The township community was so welcoming and supportive; we couldn't have made this film without their blessings. We must also make mention of the extras that came from that community who got into the spirit of the project and delivered beautiful and heart-warming moments in the film - we thank them with all our hearts!”


Johnny Clegg: 2016 is available for sale on iTunes.

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