Mango Groove

By Kerry-Anne Allerston

Can you believe this inspirational afropop band is celebrating their 30th anniversary this year? Incredible! We caught up with lead singer Claire Johnston to find out what it’s been like making people dance, dance, dance, dance some more for all this time.

What was it like starting a band in early-’80s SA?
It was both challenging and exhilarating. Challenging in that, as a non-racial band at the time, there were many obstacles to overcome in a society that was still trying to keep people apart. And exhilarating because those were momentous times of hope and transition. Music then was somehow ‘more than music’, and to the extent that Mango Groove was even a tiny part of a broader process of socio-cultural change and liberation, we feel privileged to have been part of it.
What do you feel has changed in the music SA?
Well, we are much more part of the world now, so in terms of technology, the internet, social media, artistic empowerment and general access, the industry has changed massively, and for the better. At the end of the day, though, the basics remain and are timeless: the power of the song, the power of an artist that has conviction and a strong identity, and music’s extraordinary ability to move us and change our lives. In all these regards, there are some great new SA artists out there, and we feel delighted (and humbled) that we are still sharing stages with them!

If you could address the people of South Africa and share just one piece of advice, what would it be?
We have a glorious country, with so much to celebrate, but he challenges still facing us can seem overwhelming. Our advice would be to trust the power of ordinary South Africans to change this country, and to remain positive and proactive. We’ve done so much before – we can do it again.
Mango Groove has performed some pretty spectacular events over the years. Any particular memories from these that stand out?
Firstly, performing at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration at the Union Buildings, and secondly performing to 200 000 people in Paris for an SOS Racism concert. We still pinch ourselves that we were fortunate enough to have been part of those.

If you could put together a one-day festival, which acts would you book for your line-up?
If we could choose any SA artists dead or alive, I do suspect that Lucky Dube and Brenda Fassie would be there, but with regard to current artists, we would be spoilt for choice. I’m not even sure we would make the bill!
This one is always tricky, but if you could choose your favourite two Mango Groove songs, what would they be?
Hmm… One would have to be Special Star, as that song did so much for us, and said so much about what it was to be South African at the time. For the other song, we’d probably go with something more recent like Faces To The Sun or Kind: both are songs that reflect on what it is to be South African now, and how we best move forward with positivity and kindness.

Celebrate Mango Grooves 30th birthday with them at CAPITAL CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL 2019
Date: Saturday, 15 June 2019
Venue: Pretoria National Botanical Gardens, Pretoria
Time: 10H00 – 19H00
Price: R140 – R200