By Jane Faulkner
February 26 2003
Sydney Morning Herald
Gospel music can change a person’s life. Just ask David Mulovhedzi, choirmaster with the Soweto Gospel Choir, in Australia for a series of concerts. He explains its allure, firstly, by singing a couple of bars from Holy City and the small room fills with the most wonderful harmonies.
“You feel you are going to heaven when this song starts,” he says. “This song can take you places and make you feel something special, something that you’ve never felt before.”
Gospel is God’s music, and as a disciple Mulovhedzi wants to spread the word. But he also wants audiences to enjoy the fabulous music and African culture. It’s why, last October, the Soweto Gospel Choir was created with traditional music, including songs in Zulu, Sotho and Swahili.
Already a well-known choirmaster in South Africa and conductor of the highly regarded Holy Jerusalem choir, Mulovhedzi formed the Soweto group so that it could tour internationally.
He visited dozens of churches seeking the best choristers, auditioned 200 singers and selected 32. The result is a choir of extraordinary vocal range and sound.
For the Australian tour, the two-hour concert includes 16 songs with a four-piece band accompanying, although much of the repertoire is a cappella.
“Gospel music reaches the soul,” croons 19-year-old Sipokazi Luzipo, one of the youngest choristers. “Yes, it’s soul music.”
Last year, she was spotted on the Popstars television program. At the show’s audition, Luzipo sang a gospel song so exquisitely the television producers were crying.
Then came the call to join the choir. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is deliverance.’ All I ever wanted to sing was gospel, but thought I would use Popstars as a channel to be seen.
“I really wanted to further my solo career, but not at the expense of the choir. But is there anything wrong with desiring? Gosh, I’m only 19. Who’d ever think I’d be singing in Australia?”
During the concert, Luzipo sings solo – a Zulu song called Bayete. Her powerful yet mellifluous voice is of the Aretha Franklin style. “Aretha Franklin has got soul. That’s the type of music I relate to and it’s the music I sing because it reaches deep down. You can feel it,” she says.
Luzipo had no doubt music would be her calling. As a student, she entered all the singing competitions – and won. But she credits her vocal training and performance to being a member since 1996 of her church choir, the Soul Winners.
Gospel music is incredibly uplifting and joyous, and that’s why this teenager and many of her musical brothers and sisters are in choirs.
It’s also escapism.
“It’s a hideaway place where people can’t reach you,” says Luzipo. “You’re away from the crime, away from the misery, away from the poverty, and yet that’s why we sing with so much soul because we are exposed to these things. We’ve lived through apartheid.
“There’s a song African Dreaming, and it’s beautiful because it’s a song of hope – of a united Africa, a place of peace.”