5 August 2005
The Soweto Gospel Choir is a shout of joy, a towering onslaught of exuberance, firmly led by dynamic choir director Lucas Deon Bok. The singers have a razor-sharp attack, phenomenal unity and a blazing, voluptuous sound. Rhythmically exciting, the songs are spiced with djembe drumming, percussive slaps, stamping, trills and throat clicks and for maximum visual impact, the singers perform dramatic and synchronised dance moves that intensify their force and momentum.
In vibrant costumes that integrate aspects of Xhosa and Ndebele design and Zulu beadwork, the stage was a splash of colour, taut and alert with the performers’ infectious camaraderie.
With oodles of zest and an uplifting spirit, the choir had not a shred of difficulty involving its audience.
The pace was unstoppable, a seamless flow of traditional gospel and contemporary standards including an a capella version of the Neville Brothers’ haunting I Bid You Goodnight and Weeping, a moving anthem from apartheid years. Bob Marley’s classic One Love was peppered with chopped syncopated productions achieving an almost strummed effect.
Individual members take turns to lead as the ensemble surges and retreats in forceful response to the soloist’s call. A rigorous djembe introduces the second half and Bok demonstrates the choir’s multi-lingual skills as he romps them through warm-up segments in Zulu and Italian. There are several superb solos as well, including an irresistible Modimo by soprano Lehakwe Tlali and a warmly shaped Woza Meli Warni. The quality of the singing just gets better and better with an exploration of lighter hues, emphatic phrasing and increased range of colour as a sequence of charming singers “salute the audience” supported by exhilarating harmonised blends.
It was impossible not to be swept along by this joyful, energised and upbeat choir with its huge, irresistible personality.