29 January 2006
Language barriers are broken when South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir sings praises.
The group’s voice reflects the diverse religious landscape of the African nation, and its songs have been heard worldwide.
“Through our music, people will learn a lot about the South African belief,” said choir director and founder David Mulovhedzi in a phone interview from his homeland.
“When you praise the Lord, you have to dance, chant and show your happiness,” he said. “We use African drums, the chant and the movement … most (people) abroad have never heard of that style.”
The gospel choir will return to the Tampa Bay area Wednesday as part of its second world tour, promoting its new sophomore album, “Blessed.”
“We feel like we’ve been blessed, and Soweto has been so much blessed,” Mulovhedzi said. “It’s a free country, and people are moving around freely. We think of this and think that we’re blessed.”
The group’s debut CD, “Voices From Heaven,” reflected the choir’s overall emotion, Mulovhedzi said. It landed at No. 1 on the Billboard World Music charts in January 2005.
Mulovhedzi’s choir direction caught the attention of Australian promoters in 2002, and they suggested he create an official South African choir. A year later, the promoters invited the Soweto Gospel Choir to perform in the Sydney Opera House, which launched the choir’s touring career.
During the audition process, Mulovhedzi purposely chose singers from varying religious sects, including Zionist, Baptist and Catholic. Even the colorful costumes mirror the country’s multiple tribes, which Mulovhedzi said are collectively known as the rainbow people of South Africa.
“We arranged the songs so the people abroad would see the different religious groups and traditional languages, but we are all as one,” he said.
In between tours, the 32-member choir keeps busy working for its charity, Nkosi’s Haven/Vukani, a foundation that raises funds for AIDS orphans.
The lingering impact the gospel choir’s music has on its audience thrills Mulovhedzi most.
“Some (people) stand up and dance, some sit and listen, and some are crying,” he said. “After the show, they say the music is so soulful … that’s what we really like to give to our audience. It’s lovely.”