By Nicola Dowling
EFFERVESCENT, energetic and uplifting.
It doesn’t matter whether you understand the words, if you’re religious, or to steal a phrase from Billy Joel, what culture you’re from. Music has a way of reaching out to anyone and everyone.
And last night’s performance by the Soweto Gospel Choir proved it.
With an audience as varied as our diverse region has to offer, each and every one, black, white, young and old was humming, tapping, clapping and nodding along to the music.
With artists so full of infectious energy, we couldn’t fail to be drawn in to the fun of it all.
The Grammy Award-winning group whose patron is the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has impressive credentials having performed for Nelson Mandela and in 2006 at a new
Year’s Eve celebration for Oprah Winfrey and 200 of her guests including Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige, Tina Turner, Pattie Labelle, Sydney Poitier and Qunicy Jones.
And it seems their mix of Zulu and Sotho traditional songs alongside those more familiar to western audiences such as Amazing Grace and the rousing World in Union is just as popular with the masses which flock to see their touring shows nine months of each year.
I particularly liked the second half of the show which I thought showcased the choir’s cornucopia of voices a little better than the first half which was more band heavy.
Sipokazi Luzipo’s captivating speaking voice made her explanation of the different sections of the show sound like poetry. I could have listened to her read the phone book.
Rebecca Nyamane’s smooth and effortless alto was enough to melt anyone’s heart and Shimmy Jiyane’s vocal range was amazing.
As one of the founding members of the group he also takes the credit for being a choreographer and dancer and has the most beautiful and expressive face which is as capable of drama as it is of humour.
A friend of mine who is in a Manchester-based gospel choir – one of a number of singers I spotted on a kind of musical busman’s holiday last night – laughed and said she’d like to join.
Even with a bit of extra training though, we weren’t sure that any of us would be able to hold a tune and perform the rhythmic and energetic dance moves which are such an integral part of what the Soweto choir are all about.
As jobs go its not a bad one, but it can’t be an easy one either. The level of training involved must be something else.
And I don’t imagine the hours are short either.
Within minutes of leaving us clapping and cheering for more, without so much as five minutes to change or mop their brows, the choir members were in the foyer collecting for their HIV/Aids foundation.