February 13, 2007
What does it take to make a dream come true? Hard work, according to the Soweto Gospel Choir’s Bev Briars.
The globe-trotting choir achieved their dream on Sunday night when they were awarded the Grammy for best traditional world music album for Blessed.
Speaking to The Star from Los Angeles yesterday morning, executive producer Briars said: “We’ve just come back from the ceremony. It’s so unbelievable, it’s a dream. It’s something that you never think will happen to you. We are so excited.”
She added: “We worked hard because we knew we wanted to win a Grammy one day. And our dream has come true.
“This means a lot to us. This is such an achievement and an amazing surprise.”
Briars said some of the choir members were not in Los Angeles and were unable to share in the celebration. Only the members who were currently touring the US were present. The others are in South Africa preparing for a tour of Ghana, Asia and Australia.
Blessed, which is a fusion of African traditional gospel and international spiritual songs, was in stores in South Africa two years ago but was released in America only in January last year.
Briars attributed the success of the 50-member choir to hard work.
“When I was approached by Australian promoters to start a gospel choir, I didn’t know what was going to happen. They phoned me and said they wanted an African choir. We wanted to tour but we never knew it would happen. But with the help of an Australian promoter, we started touring overseas,” said Briars, explaining how the Soweto Gospel Choir had grown from an idea into a global sensation.
The choir’s success was lauded by Arts and Culture Minister Dr Pallo Jordan, who said: “Their achievement demonstrates that South African talent not only has the potential to raise its voice and compete with its international counterparts, but is of world class.”
Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said: “Let us hope that their triumph will convince the local media, especially the SABC, to devote far more coverage to our brilliant local musicians, actors and creative artists in all sectors of arts and culture, who are of world-class standard, as the Soweto choir has proved.”
Gauteng MEC for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation Barbara Creecy said: “On behalf of Gauteng residents, the provincial government says ‘halala and well done’ to the Soweto gospel choristers and their management team.
“This prestigious award serves as evidence that we can compete with the best in the world …”
The award is the latest in a string of accolades achieved by South African artists following the success of actress Charlize Theron in winning an Oscar for best actress for her portrayal of a serial killer in the movie Monster in 2004. The movie Tsotsi won an Oscar for best foreign language film last year.
The Soweto Gospel Choir won Australia’s Helpmann Award in 2003 and were a surprise hit at the Edinburgh Festival the same year.