April 24, 2008
The Cairns Post
When Soweto choirmaster David Mulovhedzi started the Soweto Gospel Choir back in 2002 with fellow choir director Beverly Bryer, he never imagined winning one of world music’s highest honours.
And not only did his talented South African posse score a Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album for their second album Blessed, they won a second Grammy this year in the same category for their third album African Spirit.
But viewers of the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angles earlier this year wouldn’t have seen any hoo haa from the winners on stage.
In fact, all 52 choir members, directors and crew were humbly tucked half a world away at home watching the ceremony together.
“When the Grammy Award was called we couldn’t believe we had won it,” David says from his home in Soweto, Johannesburg.
“There was great excitement. Everyone was screaming, shouting and praising God. It was wonderful.
“There was lots of dancing in the streets of Soweto.”
The two Grammies have topped off a meteoric rise for the colourful gospel singers from the most populous urban black area in South Africa.
After only six years, they’ve gone from talented local singing group pulled together from churches and community groups to international sensations, performing in front of the who’s who of the world stage.
Some of the choir’s highlights have been singing for Nelson Mandela, being guest stars at Oprah Winfrey’s famous 2007 New Years party at Sun City, performing for Bill Clinton and singing Happy Birthday to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
You can also add Bono, Queen, Annie Lennox, Dionne Warwick, Jimmy Cliff, Celine Dion and Red Hot Chili Peppers to the collaboration list, along with recording with Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant for the Fats Domino tribute album Going Home.
“The (first) Grammy Award has done so much for us,” David admits.
“People at home now realise our music is being recognised.
“It’s also uplifted the standard of South African music around the world.
“We are very proud of our achievement and now everyone knows South Africa for the music and not just the politics.”
The Soweto Gospel Choir start their third Australian tour in Cairns this week, performing songs mainly from their critically acclaimed third album African Spirit.
The album continues to capture the strength and human spirit of their homeland through vibrant historic rhythms and songs of joy and praise.
David Mulovhedzi will make a rare appearance on the tour in Cairns as head of the 26-strong choir, who will perform the vibrant and moving concert in six different languages, including English, Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho.
The tour then heads off to other parts of Australia, raising money for the group’s own AIDS orphan foundation, the Nkosis Havan Vukani foundation.
“That’s very important to us,” David stresses.
“It helps those kids. We feel proud we are doing something and not just singing.”