“Dazzling and unified…..Soweto Gospel Choir was as much to look at as to listen to. The human spirit – this you couldn’t miss” The Los Angeles Times, 2012
“Boasting two Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, SA Music Awards, and having performed at the Oscars all in just 10 years, easily makes this the world’s best choir” City Press, South Africa May 2013
Just two of the endless reviews that this phenomenal internationally renowned choir have and continue to receive no matter the continents their exalted voices travel too. And they are set to return to Australia in late June for a nationwide tour that will again inspire, uplift and engage audiences of all ages, colours and creeds, as the unifying essence of music is supposed to do.
Hailing from the township of Soweto in Johannesburg South Africa, The Soweto Gospel Choir have been in the business of soul whispering and healing through music since the choir was first founded in 2002 by choir leaders David Mulovhedzi and Beverly Bryer. Amassing a more than 30-member ensemble, the choir blends elements of African gospel, Negro spirituals, reggae and American popular music into an electrifying sight and sound visual experience that has and continues to capture the world over. From the powerful and majestic voices to the colourful outfits and uplifting ambience, The Soweto Gospel Choir is food for the mind and soul. Over the past 16 years in the international arena, the choir has performed with the likes of Robert Plant, Bono, Akon, Keri Hilson, Peter Gabriel, Black-Eyed Peas, Shakira, Angelique Kidjo and John Legend.to name a few and have performed for the late South African President Mandela, former US President Bill Clinton, Oprah, Quincy Jones, Archbishop Tutu, Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince Harry, The Lord Mayor of London and many more.
With two albums ‘ Blessed’ and ‘ African Spirit’ that have both received The Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2007 and 2008, the choir also collaborated with artist Peter Gabriel on the song from the Disney movie WALL-E called ‘Down to Earth’, which was also nominated for Best Song in 2009. From State performances for global leaders to lending their vocals to rock concerts and everything in between, the Soweto Gospel Choir are undoubtedly the most recognised and respected international choir in the world and it is a position they do not take lightly.
Catching up with choreographer, choir master, tenor, dancer and founding member Shimmy Jiyane about the upcoming Australian tour called “Faith”, he took some time out his busy schedule to shed some light on the choir’s inspiring journey thus far and what motivates the members to share their majestic voices so effortlessly with the world. I am so excited to share this interview and a small window into the musical world of a sound so rich and transcendent of my childhood growing up in my hometown of Johannesburg, the colours, the rhythm and the pulse of a country that has birthed a choir that continues to mesmerize the world over.
Hello Shimmy and thanks for your time. How has life been treating you?
Life has been good just working hard with the choir on our new album and show.
You hail from my native homeland of South Africa and for that I am most proud. South African music, be it gospel or beats has been getting considerable love from the global market of late and serving as inspiration for many other countries musical communities and has done so for years. The Gospel Choir is world-renowned and synonymous for its depth and beauty of sound. How would you best describe the power of this gospel and the message behind it music?
Soweto gospel choir’s sound comes from our proud musical traditions, taught to us from an early age in our homes, schools and churches. We are known for our beautiful African harmonies that are unique to the choir and to African music in general. We truly love singing and enjoy passing this on to our audiences, so the beauty of this love translates into our music and our message is one of upliftment and joy. Our audiences are affected by the sincerity of our belief in God and in our genuine energy and love for life. We don’t need to preach our message, you just need to listen to our voices that come from the soul.
Who are the Soweto Gospel Choir, how many singers does it consist of and what keeps you all so committed to this union?
SGC actually comprises 42 members in total, 21 of who are on this tour. The choir is our family and we’ve been together for 14 years, so the love of our musical family and of our wonderful musical journey, keeps us committed to this union.
We are so excited to know that you will be visiting Australia for a tour soon. What can we expect from your show and what are you currently working on musically that you can share with us over here?
We are so excited to be coming to Australia and bringing our new show called Faith with many beautiful, diverse voices from South Africa as well as dancers and drummers. We have some new costumes and a variety of percussive instruments unique to South Africa. There are some fun and energetic routines as well as some gentle, soulful numbers, and our repertoire includes traditional and gospel songs representative of our different cultures and faith as well as some classic international favourites.
How would you say South African music is received by the global audience? What makes its sound so special and unique?
Soweto gospel choir comes from the background, where even the shades of a tree, not a brick and mortar building, can house a church service. The harmonies, the energy and the intensity of South African music is what makes it so exciting for international audiences and keep in mind, that every song has its own African movements, so that adds a uniqueness that is greatly appreciated.
Where can we find you online?
What would you say is the greatest motivation for the choir in doing what you all do?
We love to sing!
For more information on The Soweto Gospel Choir visit: www.sowetogospelchoir.com
Catch the Soweto Gospel Choir on their Australian Tour:
Hip Hop and Beyond