27 April 2008
Sunday Herald Sun
South African gospel singer Sipokazi Luzipo confesses that Nelson Mandela was disappointed when he met her and fellow members of the Soweto Gospel Choir.
“We had just won our second Grammy award and went to show Nelson Mandela our prize, but he said he was very upset with us, because we had never invited him to join the choir,” she says with a laugh.
“He had a really lovely sense of humour and started dancing around when we did a song for him.”
The choir, which will perform at Hamer Hall on May 17 and 18, was formed in 2002 and has become an international favourite thanks to its moving performances.
Among the famous figures who have performed alongside the choir are Red Hot Chili Peppers, Robert Plant, Celine Dion, Dionne Warwick, Queen, Annie Lennox and Jimmy Cliff.
The choir has performed at shows for American television talkback queen Oprah Winfrey, former US president Bill Clinton and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Resting after returning home from an extensive American tour, the young singer expressed fondness for one particular big-name artist the choir has worked with.
“Bono is a true brother of ours,” she said. “He is so good and easy to work with and so generous. I love his and his band’s music.
“We actually now do a version of the U2 song Pride (In the Name of Love) in our show, which everyone thinks is wonderful. Another song we do is Bob Dylan’s I’ll Remember You.”
Sipokazi, who appeared on the South African version of television talent show Popstars, says she is a committed Christian who always believed her God-given talent would take her a long way.
“My mum was very wary of me joining the choir at first and leaving home for long periods, but when she heard that we were only performing gospel songs she quickly came around and agreed I could join,” she says.
“I was raised in a Christian home and consider my role in the choir to be more than just that of a singer. It is my ministry. We work for God.
“South Africa is filled with all kinds of wonderful church music . . . we perform in English, Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho. Ninety per cent of the choir live in Soweto in South Africa, which foreigners may think is a violent place, but truly it is great here now and no longer a place to avoid if you are white.”
Sipokazi says working in the choir is a great blessing.
“We have raised almost $1 million for AIDS orphans in South Africa and are seeing really good results in that area,” she said.
“The choir are helping out poor people who previously did not have the most simple things . . . we share the blessings that we have been given by the Lord.”
She says at the end of every performance the choir invites audience members to donate to Nkosi’s Haven, an emergency medical fund named after a 12-year-old South African AIDS activist.