Credit Suisse E-Magazine
In its short history, the Soweto Gospel Choir has achieved international acclaim. Formed in 2002, the 26-member South African choir performs around the globe spreading the spirit of their musical heritage. Music Director, Lucas Bok, speaks with optimism about their music and their message about raising awareness of the impact of Aids in Africa.
Paul Coia: What were the principles behind setting up the Soweto Gospel Choir?
Lucas Bok: There is a lot of talent in South Africa and it took an Australian producer to recognize this. She was intrigued by the sound that we have, so she invited some people from Australia to listen to our music. Based on that meeting, they decided to hold auditions four years ago to form this choir, and the rest is history.
Do you and the choir feel that you are ambassadors for your country?
Definitely. We have been invited to perform at many prestigious events, including the 80th birthday celebrations for Nelson Mandela, and we are often asked to speak on behalf of our country and explain the political situation. In that way, we are ambassadors for our country.
From your perspective, what is the feeling that people globally have toward South Africa? Obviously, feelings must be very different from what they were 10 to 15 years ago. Where exactly are we in our understanding?
I think a lot of people have a better picture now of South Africa, and they are looking to invest in our country. This is a very good thing for us, because it means a brighter future. Our country is becoming a place that people appreciate and want to be a part of, and we as a nation are optimistic that things will only get better.
If I were to invest in South Africa, what should I invest in?
I would say that the biggest investment should be made in people, but, of course, people invest in many things for many different reasons. We are a great nation, but we need a lot of help to develop and move forward. Investing into people is the greatest way to achieve this.
Why is investing in people the best investment?
People bring you joy. They bring you a smile. A building can’t do that. An investment into our people is an investment in the future prosperity of our nation.
Let’s shift back to your music. What kind of repertoire does the choir have?
We sing a lot of tribal and traditional songs as well as contemporary music. We perform in eight languages, including English, Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho. We try to bring some joy and some laughter to our listeners.
So, music should be about fun.
Yes. Music is not a stressful thing. It is something that you can do anytime, any day, anywhere. Music is something that you can always relate to. It’s a universal language.
I know that after every performance you take a collection. What is that money used for?
The funds we collect go to orphans Aids charities in South Africa. One is called Nkosi’s Haven Vukani, which the choir’s charity. Vukani is a Zulu word, which means “arise, wake-up”. That is the message we are trying to bring to our people. Aids is real and it is destroying our people. We, as Africans, must do something about this. We also work in connection with Ngosi’s Haven (The Nkosi Johnson Aids Foundation), and they help us organize our charity and make sure that the money is utilized in the right way. We also help other charities that get little or no funding from the government.
Do you feel that big businesses are doing enough for charity? Do big businesses have a conscience?
To a certain degree, businesses do have a conscience, but there is still far more that can be done. When I go home to South Africa after traveling, I see how much more there is to do. We need more help. We need financial assistance. My appeal to businesses is to dig a little deeper.