Claire Johnston Reflects On Mango Groove’s Illustrious Career And How The Group’s Shared Love For Performing Keeps Them On Top
Mango Groove celebrates over three decades in the music industry – a massive feat for any artist. Forming at the cusp of a game-changing era for South Africa, the group made headlines around the world for becoming one of the first acts to integrate both black and white musicians together, celebrating what it means to be South African instead of letting politics divide them.
Since their foundation in 1984, the band has released six studio albums and numerous singles. Their most recent album, 2016’s Faces to the Sun, was more than four years in the making. Their proudly South African approach has helped the group create a unique sound and their passion for celebration helped them craft smash hits like ‘Special Star’, ‘Dance Some More’, ‘Hellfire’, ‘Move Up’, and many more.
Today, Mango Groove continue to draw large crowds of people thanks to their eclectic live performances. The group will be headlining the Ballito BIG Week New Year’s Eve bash and the group’s lead vocalist Claire Johnston opens up about the impact Mango Groove has had on Mzansi, their most emotional on-stage moment, exciting upcoming performances and so much more.
Mango Groove has been around for many years now and remains a top class live act, what is the secret to constant success and remaining relevant in such a fast-paced industry?
Thank you! I can only think that it has something to do with the fact that we love performing live as much as we do. All eleven of us really enjoy being together on stage and fling ourselves into each performance, so hopefully that mad energy is infectious. We have always been astonished by the support we get from audiences across the generations and it tells you a story about the power of music.
What is your fondest memory of being on stage?
Where to begin?! There are incredible memories from the early days in smoky clubs followed by bigger and slightly more intimidating gigs in stadiums and in foreign countries. But, possibly the stand out on an emotional level is still the inauguration of Nelson Mandela back in ‘94. A time of huge hope and a sense of what it is to be South African, along with being welcomed back into the world. It was a time when anything was possible. We need some of that energy back now. It’s there.
Why do you think the music of Mango Groove has become so iconic among South Africans?
Mango Groove was born out of the dark days of the mid 1980’s when music meant so much what with its power to change hearts and minds. Our first album was released during the transition to democracy and was played on pretty much every radio and TV station. So, we were lucky enough to reach pretty much all South Africans at a time of enormous hope. This has made us something of a soundtrack to people’s lives, which makes us very happy.
You share the stage with many popular South African acts (young and old), whose music and musical style are you loving at the moment?
We’ve been fortunate to work with so many sublime artists recently, and were reminded how much we love Mafikizolo, Matthew Mole, Goodluck, Wonderboom and John Ellis as well being blown away by Verandah Panda and Simmy. There is so much remarkable talent in South Africa that we could go on and on….
You’re performing at Ballito BIG Week later this year and ringing in the new year, what are you most look forward to?
What a beautiful place to bring in a New Year! And it’s been two years since we’ve been able to celebrate on such a grand scale, so that is a celebration right there. It will be amazing to be together as a band of friends who will hopefully make lots of new friends and memories as we cross into 2023.
What is it about festivals like Ballito BIG Week that resonates with you as a group?
Being part of all that amazing energy and celebration is life affirming and something we never tire of.
What is your message of advice for future musicians or those wanting to follow a career in music?
Dream BIG but also make sure you have your feet on the ground, as it is not an easy career choice. Be prepared for huge highs potentially followed by crushing lows so make sure you look after your mental and physical health. It’s very important to be original: find your own style and then really perfect it. Also, surround yourself with people who believe in you and care enough about you to be genuinely honest with you. These days, of course, so much relies on being social media savvy, so get comfortable with finding your voice on the various platforms but don’t let the haters get into your head.
For fans wanting to bring in 2023 with Mango Groove alongside supporting acts Rubber Duc, Timo ODV, Kyle Cassim, Kasango, Kyle Worde, Austin Cassim and many more, tickets for New Year’s Eve @ Ballito BIG Week are available at bbw.howler.co.za/bbw31decNYE.