By Annette Bayne
As their voices are raised and goose bumps start chasing up your arms, it is not difficult to see why the Soweto Gospel Choir won the Grammy for their CD Blessed in the category Best Traditional World Music.
Their new CD African Spirit, released in 2006, is their third CD released in South Africa, Australia, the US and Europe.
It is a journey that embraces the soul on a number of levels, both spiritual and emotional, with a mixture of their traditional gospel numbers and some distinctive renditions of contemporary classics like U2’s In The Name Of Love and Bob Dylan’s I’ll Remember You.
African Spirit is an uplifting and joyful album, that will no doubt follow in the big steps made by Blessing.
This weekend, Joburg audiences were treated to African Spirit in concert at the Civic Theatre, and the music that takes your senses by storm on the CD had audiences jigging in their seats and begging for more.
They performed the songs with the same joy and spirit that won the group their much-deserved Grammy.
In an explosion of sound and voices, the songs were either sung cappella or with the back-up band of a guitar, bass, keyboard and drums, played by the group’s members. One song only needed the acoustic properties of knives, forks, glasses and a lunch table.
Whether it was the strong coffee tones of the Bass soloists or the rich honeyed voices of the Alto soloists, they received a warm reception from the audience as they reached into those hidden places with their voices.
Although it is their voices that fill a venue, the Soweto Gospel Choir performance is in no way a static show. It was a highly dynamic with hand-clapping, foot stamping and some serious dance moves. And I think given any more encouragement, the audience, including me, would have been up and dancing.
The choir were joined by Vusi Mahlasela performing two of his songs River Jordan and Mighty River, an added bonus to an already spectacular performance.
The music, performance and showmanship was as vibrant as their brightly-coloured costumes, traditionally styled, but with a delightful modern feel.
No matter how far the choir have come in their success story their roots are strong, and they share with those less fortunate from the communities where they came from.
Through collections at the end of each show, the choir raises money for their charitable foundation and Vukani and for Nkosi’s Haven.