28 August 2005
If you are running short on joy in your life, spend an evening with this amazing choir.
The Soweto Gospel Choir is a reason to get up in the morning and certainly a reason to go out at night. Its passion for music, boundless energy and colourful presentation make it an evening to be savoured.
Ten years after its country chose a peaceful transition to democracy and left behind apartheid, this group of singers from many parts of the country is an export South Africa can be immensely proud of.
It’s not just the joy that is evident in their performance but also the incredible discipline they display that makes the music so tight and moving. And Lukas Bok, the tiny man running the show, keeps a tight rein on proceedings without ever stifling the enthusiasm these people have for their work.
Whether he’s conducting his well-drilled charges, singing himself or working the crowd with his cheeky asides, Bok is a pocket rocket who hits the spot.
He has plenty of support from performers such as Shimmy Jiyane, who features his fabulous falsetto in numbers such as I Bid You Goodnight and Oh Happy Day.
Jiyane also choreographed the material and if you think these people are great singers, you should see them dance.
The inclusion of the traditional Zulu stomp in the number is a spectacular highlight and it’s amazing they can sing while doing it!
It’s a holistic approach to gospel singing, in which the body and voice are perfectly in tune, and the spirit of celebration is only a moment away. From the true gospel songs with the devil in their sights, to the spirituals and even the western songs, this choir shows it has not lost its roots.
The singers have forgiven the past but not forgotten their heroes such as Steve Biko, founder and martyr of the Black Consciousness movement in South Africa. Vusi Shabalala’s moving, powerful rendition of Asimbonanga/Biko is a fitting tribute to the sacrifices so many people made to win a peaceful future for their once segregated nation.
The men definitely hold sway over the proceedings, with a series of brilliant male choral pieces. To see a performer such as veteran bass singer Joshua Mceinka, whose unforgettable face mirrors the history of his country, giving his all is like watching a man living a nation’s dream.
But the women are sensational, too. Great contributions come from Jabulile Dlada in Thina Simngobile, Thando Ngqunge in Ahuna and especially Sibongile Makgathe in Joko Yahao.
Sibongile’s work opposite Shimmy Jiyane in Oh Happy Day was uplifting stuff, and there is tremendous communication between the performers and the audience.
The version of the traditional spiritual Khumbaya was the vocal highlight of a night that will live in the hearts of all those lucky enough to squeeze into the Town Hall.
After cleverly getting the crowd to its feet for the South African anthem, it was party time and the foot-stomping became infectious.
The costumes, movement, band, drums and genuine smiles . . . this was world-class entertainment with a purpose.
The Soweto Gospel Choir would electrify WOMADelaide and it would have been fantastic to see the appreciative crowd in the staid Adelaide auditorium up and dancing in the aisles. Gospel doesn’t get any hotter than this!
The Soweto Gospel Choir’s shows finished on Wednesday.
Hit or Hype?
Karyn Hancock, Hawthorndene
“It was very rhythmic and colourful. They sang some well known songs like Oh, Happy Day.”
Nicolle Hancock, Hawthorndene
“It was awesome. It was really bright and vibrant but the music wasn’t too loud.”
Genevieve Dawson-Scott, Hawthorn
“It was brilliant. I could see a few people bopping along to the music.”