Well I have never been mentioned on stage before at a pop concert, but it happened last night when Mango Groove’s lead singer Claire Johnson dedicated the song ANOTHER COUNTRY to me. You could have knocked me down with a feather, but it was hugely appreciated. You see, I reckon I am Mango Groove’s biggest fan in the UK – and if I come across as a bit of a groupie in this piece I make no apology!
I first discovered Mango Groove back in 1994 when I was in a cafe called Aroma in St Martin’s Lane. They always played different types of World Music and suddenly this song came on and I had that hair going up on the back of your neck moments. I think it was Hellfire. Well, I went up to HMV in Oxford Street the next day and bought two of their albums and I’ve never looked back. I can honestly say I like every single song they have ever recorded, and there aren’t many bands anyone can say that about.
Mango Groove hail from South Africa, although the lead singer, Claire Johnston, was born only a few miles from me in Bishops Stortford. They’ve sold over a millon albums in their home country and you could see in what affection they are held by the reaction of the big South African contingent in the audience last night.
The evening started with no fewer than three warm-up acts. Matthew Mole is a young South African singer who could be a big name in the making. I liked his songs so much I have just downloaded his entire back catalogue and that’s also what I have done with The Soil, a three piece South African accapella group who knocked the audience for six with their uniquenese, their energy and their astonishing harmonies. Look them up.
I had dragged eleven friends along in a bit to indoctrinate them into becoming fans of Mango Groove, and I reckon my mission was successful. My sister Tracey (pictured with me and Claire Johnston) and I have very different musical tastes and I was amazed she came along, but she seemed to be hugely impressed by what she heard. Id be surprised if most of them weren’t spending part of today downloading some of Mango Groove’s back catalogue.
They came on stage and started as they meant to go on with two very up tempo numbers, Hellfire and Hometalk. The two highlights for me were Special Star, perhaps their biggest hit, and Dance Sum More. This really got the audience on their feet, even people in the upper circle. The whole show was a spectacle and there was always so much going on on stage that the lighting people sometimes found it difficult to know where to point their spotlights.
They were on stage for a full two hours and the concert didn’t finish till 11pm. I said to Claire at the after-show party that I could die happy now I had seen a Mango Groove concert. I think she thought I was joking! It was a fantastic evening. One of these days I want to see them live in South Africa, a country I have never been to. Hopefully I will put that right before too long.
UPDATE: Earlier this week I interviewed Mango Groove. You can hear it HERE