Mango Groove remains South Africa’s Special Star

Mango Groove kicked Woordfees off with a bang last Friday night. The 11-piece South

African Afro-pop band treated the adoring crowd to old favourites such as “Special Star”, as well as a few new tracks off their new album, Faces to the Sun.

Claire Johnston at Woordfees. PHOTOGRAPH: PAULA-ANN SMIT

The band was joined by Riana Nel, Vusi Mahlasela and Freshlyground’s Zolani Mahola. Frontwoman Claire Johnston was excited to perform at Woordfees, saying: “I am astonished at the level of support we have. I have been with the band for 32 years. This is what keeps us going, what keeps us interested.”

The band was very active during the apartheid era in the 1980’s and 90’s. It is renowned for consisting of a multi-ethnic collective of musicians. Their music is a fusion of kwela, marabi and pop.

Even though it was faced with challenges, including being denied access to certain spaces due to apartheid laws, Mango Groove continued producing anthem-like songs and performing for fans. “The great thing about music is that it transcends barriers. It’s a universal language,” said Johnston.

Concert-goers could not contain their excitement while they danced and sang along to the familiar tunes.

It was not only the audience who enjoyed the performance. The artists themselves had a ball on stage. Freshlyground lead singer, Zolani Mahola, said: “I enjoyed performing at Woordfees because of the relaxed, fun vibe.” 

The singer gushed over how honoured she felt to be performing with the legendary band.

Mango Groove will be performing at the International Jazz Festival in Cape Town on 29 and 31 March 2017. – Christina Pitt and Paula-Ann Smit