Soweto Gospel Choir has message of hope
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 13, 2007
SCOTTSDALE – The Soweto Gospel Choir returns Monday to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts with its powerful presentation of South African music.
The show features a chorus of nearly 26 singers performing a cappella, full band arrangements and spirited percussion tracks.
The choir also will perform a dramatic Zulu dance, Thina Simqobire, depicting the defeat of the devil.
“The show is something vibrant. Something people can’t wait to see,” said Lucas Bok, assistant musical director for the company. “It is a true reflection of the culture of South Africa and the love of music that the people have.”
But it is more.
“At the same time it is the sharing of a message – a message of hope,” Bok said. “Sometimes people come to the show and just cry. They are relieved. The show is filled with peace and harmony and at the same time, very powerful.”
In addition to the beautiful, joyful music, the choir wears costumes that reflect the culture of South Africa. This year, the costumes are as colorful as always, but differ from previous years.
“This time around, we will be using beading that reflects different cultural groups as well as images such as lions or zebras that reflect nature and animals,” Bok said from Lincoln, Neb., where the group was recently on tour.
The chorus is adding songs from Bob Marley and Bob Dylan off its new album, African Spirit. The group will sing Dylan’s I Remember You and Marley’s One Love.
“One Love is a message we believe in and one the world needs to hear,” Bok said.
The Soweto Gospel Choir performed to sold-out audiences last year in Scottsdale, but the audiences were amazingly non-responsive to their inspirational sounds.
There was no standing, no dancing and barely any foot stomping. It’s hard to imagine that people could sit still to this kind of music.
The choir was formed in 2002, pulling the best singers from Soweto’s churches.
They had humble beginnings.
Many members had never been on a plane or even out of their country before joining the group.
Since then, they have won over audiences around the world and secured several honors, including the 2004 Gospel Music Award and a Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album.
“When we first auditioned, everyone told us this is a trial – we don’t know how long this will be,” Bok recalled. “When we got on stage, we made sure to take the moment and seize it. We blew the audiences away.”