Claire Johnston, born in the South of England, has lived in South Africa since the age of three. She joined Mango Groove at age 17 and has since recorded six studio albums with the band, toured extensively, and released two solo albums. She has come to be recognised as a symbol of the Rainbow Nation, Desmond Tutu‘s vision of a multicultural South Africa in the post-apartheid era.
With Johnston as the front woman, Mango Groove had already released several singles before completing their first album, Mango Groove, which they released in 1989.
Mango Groove has enjoyed over 12 Number 1 hits and received every conceivable SA music and video award, as well as a number of global ones. They have set new precedents for South African artists by being the only SA group to sell out the Sun City Superbowl and Standard Bank Arena six times; the first to re-define live-staging and production standards for South African artists; the first to command a million Rand sponsorship deal and; the first and only group to remain at the top of the South African national sales charts for over a year. They are furthermore aware of music’s unique power to change people’s hearts and minds
Internationally, Mango Groove’s unique and magical blend of South African Marabi, Kwela and pop influences, together with the voice and presence of Claire Johnston and the evocative sound of the penny-whistle, have captivated audiences around the world. Career highlights include a direct satellite link-up to the Freddie Mercury tribute in London (it was estimated that over a billion people watched the show); a performance in front of 200 000 people at the “SOS Racism” concert in Paris; a performance at the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival where the band received three encores.
Mango Groove was furthermore given the honour of being the only African act to be invited to perform at the “Celebrate Hong Kong ‘97” Reunification Concert. This historic event – part of the official celebrations commemorating the hand-over of Hong Kong to China, was televised worldwide and immortalised on a commemorative CD. Mango Groove was also especially proud to have been associated with the ABC worldwide broadcast of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Their music was used as the main theme and the band went on to headline the performances at his inauguration a few years later. From London to Hong Kong to Toronto to Sydney – Mango Groove has played to sell-out crowds.
The exquisite dexterity of the pennywhistle, the big brass arrangements, the lashings of doo-wop harmonies and the thundering swing and gumboot rhythms… Feed into this a modern pop sensibility and front it with the inimitable and soaring voice of Claire Johnston, and the end result is a sound that is utterly distinctive and utterly unique.
Putting it simply – nothing sounds quite like Mango Groove.