By Jon Hart
18 March 2003
They’ve only been together since last November yet the 32-voice Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa are already about to embark on their first international tour.
Founded in South Africa by Australian producers who could see the opportunities in touring such a show, the choir features the best talent from churches and communities in and around the black township of Soweto.
Given the short time together, it’s been a case of bonding and practising hard to perfect the art of tribal, traditional and popular African gospel, says choirmaster David Mulovhedzi.
“We’ve worked very hard, but at the same time, because we’re Christian people, it was probably not such a difficult thing because we all share the same belief,” he says.
“We got the members from different church choirs so that we should form one big choir to go across other countries to spread the gospel of God.”
But you don’t have to be Christian to enjoy the performance, assures Mulovhedzi. The choir’s performance is a vibrant and outgoing communal celebration as well as a deliverer of a spiritual message. The choir sings in a variety of languages, featuring a four-piece band, traditional dancers and drummers as well as a broad repertoire of songs.
These include hymns and traditional tunes ranging from Paradise Road to The Lion Sleeps Tonight to music by Otis Redding and the reggae of Jimmy Cliff.
“We’ve got different kinds of songs so we also need a band, especially when singing the Western type of music like Amazing Grace, ” says Mulovhedzi. “We combine traditional African music and Western type of music. Sometimes you tend to have different audiences whereby you’ve got to give them traditional and Western music – everything in one package. I think gospel music is heading (to the top 40) at the moment in South Africa. I think within the space of a few months, we’ll be doing something. We’re gonna hit the charts.”
A choirmaster for the past 17 years, Mulovhedzi, 50, is fluent in 11 languages and has already led the choir in performances for the President of China, Jiang Zemin, and former South African president Nelson Mandela. “It (gospel) celebrates the spirit of South Africa,” says Mulovhedzi.
“It’s different to all types of music because when you sing gospel music it feels very spiritual. It is music that brings you nearer to God to realise only one person has brought you to this planet and that’s God.”