2 August 2005
Joyous song and spirituality go hand in hand for the Soweto Gospel Choir.
“We have a strong tradition of singing in South Africa,” said music director David Mulovhedzi in Sydney yesterday. “Gospel is our way.”
The singers, who have found international fame since their first visit in 2003, remember Australia fondly as the place they first received standing ovations and rave reviews.
For many it was the first time they had left South Africa.
“This is our second home,” declared Mulovhedzi. “And we have a message for you — we invite you to visit with us.”
For this tour, dubbed Blessed, the choir is making 18 stops, from Townsville in far north Queensland to Bunbury, southwest Western Australia.
The 26 singers, along with dancers and band, power through tribal, traditional and popular African gospel as well as original compositions.
The meticulous harmonies and earthy rhythms seem to come effortlessly, such as when five members of the choir broke into a spontaneous version of Bob Marley’s reggae classic One Heart, One Love yesterday.
Gospel music is a force to be reckoned with in South Africa: in 2002, when word spread about the choir being organised, hundreds of singers auditioned.
Sipokazi Luzipo, at age 20, is one of the youngest choir members. She was discovered on South Africa’s Popstars TV show.
African jazz musician, dancer, drummer and singer Nkosinathi Hadebe came from a small town in Natal. Singing in the choir has given him respect, he said.
In fact, the singers emphasise the dual role of singing as entertainment as well as being spiritually uplifting. “We are not just singing.” said soprano Mirriam Matshepo Kutuane.
“It’s a message: God is with you, don’t lose hope.”
Hope is often in short supply among poor black South Africans directly affected by the AIDS pandemic.
On tour, the choir raises money for an AIDS charity.
“We are not only singing for ourselves, we are trying to help those who can’t help themselves,” Mulovhedzi said.