Sound Bites: Trevor Donjeany

Bassist with The Reals, Trevor Donjeany, who toured internationally as part of Johnny Clegg’s band. Picture from his Facebook page.

BILLY SUTER presents an occasional column in which he chats to popular musicians about their musical likes and dislikes. The spotlight is on seasoned singer-bassist TREVOR DONJEANY, who is to perform in British Revolution, a new show of golden oldies, with fellow members of the popular band The Reals. It will be presented at Durban’s Rhumbelow Theatre in Cunningham Road, Umbilo, at 2pm on Sunday (October 3) and again at 6.30pm on October 8 and 9, and 2pm on October 10. The show then heads to the Rhumbelow Theatre at Tina’s Hotel in Kloof (October 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24). Tickets cost R180 each. Book at Computicket or phone Roland Stansell at 082 499 8636.

TELL ME about British Revolution – I believe it’s an all-new show from The Reals and spotlights various eras of music?

Barry Thomson is on lead and acoustic guitars and vocals, Dawn Selby is musical director and on keyboards and vocals, and Mali Sewell is on drums and vocals. I am on bass and vocals. The show features music associated with some of Britain’s top acts that expressed individuality and unique ideas, which changed the course of musical history.

There is a comedy element to the show. Tell me more.

The show includes audio-visual clips of some of Britain’s top comedians, including Benny Hill, John Cleese, Peter Sellers, Rowan Atkinson and Monty Python. These days we do need to look on the bright side of life! 

Name some of the artists covered in the production.

Rolling Stones, Billy Idol, The Beatles, Manfred Mann, Rod Stewart, The Shadows , Annie Lennox and more.

How long has it been since you replaced longtime Reals member Jason Andrew on bass, and how did it come about that you joined the The Reals?

I joined The Reals in October 2020. Dawn called me and asked if I’d be interested in helping them out.

You spent a number of years playing bass for Johnny Clegg – how did that relationship start and did you perform live and on recordings with Clegg?

I joined The Clegg band in early 2007. I had known all the guys in the band for years. They had fired their bassist and Andy Innes (musical director) asked if I’d be interested in the gig. We did hundreds of concerts around the world, and I was on all live recordings and TV recordings since 2007.

What were among highlights of your time as a member of Johnny Clegg’s band?

The Clegg gig was incredibly high-profile. Everything worked and the band was disciplined – responsible guys, so we never had the drunk, late, missed-flight scenarios. I guess just two highlights would be playing the Royal Albert Hall and performing for 100 000 people in Paris.

You recently recorded your own original material. Tell me more about that and its reception.

I had been writing and recording at home for more than 15 years, both vocal and instrumental tracks. So I released two albums during lockdown, since there was nothing else going on. Dawn was really helpful, as I did the final mixes in her studio.

Where and when were you born and what marked your first success and/or big break as a musician?

I was born in Durban and left in 1980 for my first professional, full-time gig at Maseru Holiday Inn. It was a great opportunity, as I learnt different styles of music and backed cabaret  artists from all over the world.

What is your favourite song right now?

Not sure about favourite song. I listen to a lot of music.

The last album you bought – and why?

I have not bought an album in years. I source whatever I want on the internet.

Two of your favourite songs of all time?

Been a lot of good songs over the years. I listen to different genres.

The finest album ever?

One would be Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life.

The size of your music collection and the artists represented most there?

I don’t have a large physical music collection. It’s  all in my head, from my 41 years of performing, but I do I have a few albums on my computer.

Favourite radio station?

Khaya FM and Metro play some hip stuff.

The local artists you most admire?

I have worked with many  of  South Africa s top artists. I admire anyone who has kept working, recording and taking care of business.

Artists from abroad that you most admire?

So many great artists – George Benson , Roberta Flack , Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder among them.

Most over-rated people in the recording business?

Many over-rated artists. Unfortunately, talent does not always win the prize.

Pet hate/s about the music scene in South Africa?

We don’t have a proper strong union. Nobody really tours. Also, we don’t have loads of venues that understand and support artists. I have toured the US, Canada, Europe, Australia  and New Zealand, and they have a proper music  industry, venues, tours  crews and tour buses.

The one music act you would give the world to see perform live?

So many artists I would like to see, but I never had the time. I was out working and travelling.

Ever asked a music personality for an autograph?

No, never. Only a SA rugby player at the finals in Paris –  and it was for my son.

Music acts you have seen live and loved?

I really have not seen the acts I would have liked to, as I was working. I was in the same building as Marcus Miller in Amsterdam, but his gig was on at the same time as mine. I catch stuff on the internet.

Best singing star ever?

There are so many really gifted artists out there. Can’t name just one.

The greatest musician of all time?

There is no greatest artist. You’ve got Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, George Benson, Nina Simone … and the list goes on.

Best band in history?

Among my favourites  are Chicago, Steely Dan, Fourplay and Earth, Wind and Fire.

The styles of music you most enjoy?

I like great pop songs, funk, R& B and jazz. There are great artists in every genre?

 The first song you ever performed for an audience?

I’ve played thousands of gigs and milllions of notes. I can’t remember.

Guilty pleasure: a song you really feel you shouldn’t enjoy, but secretly do?

I’ve had to play lots of stuff I did not particularly like, but it pays the bills. The real treat is being on stage doing what you really like, musically.

Worst decade for music?

I think we have some really shitty music right now. I think there was a lot more integrity in earlier years.

Instruments you can play?

I play the bass, really well, and play piano for writing.

The song you’d like to be played at your funeral?

I won’t be around, so I won’t get to choose.

The song you find the saddest?

Songs are usually written with specific intention, so it depends on the message the writer wants to get across.

Two dead icons you’d most like to invite to dinner?

Luther Vandross and Johnny Clegg.

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