Feb 28, 2006
by Scott Iwasaki
It was a spiritual celebration of unity, love and friendship in Kingsbury Hall Friday night.
The Soweto Gospel Choir brought a two-hour music fest from South Africa and enlightened an appreciative audience that hung on every note.
Led by assistant choir director Lucas Deon Bok, the 25-voice ensemble kicked off the concert with the organic vocal greeting “Oluwa.”
Singing in various languages including Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho, the group focused on victory with “Thina Simngobile” and praise with “Joko Yahao” and “Noyana.”
Some works were in English, including Peter Gabriel’s “Asimbonanga/Biko” and Bob Marley’s “Avulekile Amasango/One Love.”
A multivoiced remake of Bright Blue’s 1987 song “Weeping” and the original “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” officially known as “Mbube,” were other heartfelt highlights during the first half of the evening.
The second half started off with a bang. Sipho Ngcamu and Original Msimango played their djembes, while choir members lost themselves dancing.
In fact, there was dance throughout the evening. Mixing celebratory martial arts and skanking grooves, the choir pulled out the stops for the cheering audience.
The praises of “Ngingowakho,” “Tshepa Thapelo,” “Modimo” and “Woza Meli Wami” mixed the smooth harmonies of gospel and traditional high-life rhythms.
The American traditional hymn “I Bid You Goodnight” was accompanied by the Soweto Gospel Choir Band featuring Bok on bass, guitarist Joshua Mcineka, keyboardist Vusimuzi Shabalala and drummer Mandia Modawu.
An upbeat version of “Swing Down” and a reworking of “Khumbaya” set the choir up for a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace” to the audience’s delight.
The night ended with “Nkosi Sikilele” (the South African National Anthem), “Holy City/Bayete” and Nana Mouskouri’s “Oh, Happy Day.”
With the earthy harmonies, the colorful dashiki-inspired costumes and contagious energy, the Soweto Gospel Choir filled Kingsbury Hall with peace and love.