April 23, 2008
They began as a group of mostly unknown gospel singers and dancers in Soweto six years ago. Now they are South Africa’s most famous entertainers.
The Soweto Gospel Choir is endorsed by Oprah Winfrey and was the first act to win consecutive Grammy Awards, in 2007 and 2008.
The choir begins a 26-date national tour in Cairns tomorrow, and is on a year-long world tour that takes in Germany, the US, Spain, Italy and The Netherlands.
Founded by David Mulovhedzi in Soweto in 2002, the choir is a 26-strong assembly of big-voiced singers and dancers, who mix traditional African multi-rhythms with gospel and soul.
Christians all, they praised the Lord for their success in Sydney yesterday.
“We sing everywhere, on the bus, in the dressing rooms, everywhere. It’s just a natural thing God has given us,” said Rebecca Nyamane. “Singing creates so much joy in our culture.”
The choir has sung for Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and Desmond Tutu, and has appeared with stars including Bono and Celine Dion.
Choreographer and singer Shimmy Jiyane is an original member. He said the choir had had some unbelievable experiences, such as singing with rock acts Queen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, for whom they opened in Germany last year: “Playing to an audience of 60,000 rockers was waahhhh! We took them to church for a bit.” Since the choir first visited Australia in 2003, it has performed at sell-out concerts around the world. Success has allowed the singers to support their families at home.
Since 2003 it has raised almost $US1million ($1.06 million), and last year fed, clothed and housed more than 600 children.