Amy Edwards and Anita Beaumont
13 May 2008
The Newcastle Herald
Life has delivered no shortage of unforgettable experiences for singer Shimmy Jiyane since he became a founding member of the Soweto Gospel Choir in 2002.
The 34-year-old, who performs with the choir at Civic Theatre Newcastle on May 19, spends up to 10 months of the year touring the world.
In his six-year career, Jiyane has sung alongside U2’s Bono, Diana Ross, Jimmy Cliff and Celine Dion, recorded with Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and serenaded Desmond Tutu with a rendition of Happy Birthday.
But it was an inaugural trip to Australia that provided Jiyane with his most treasured memories.
Jiyane said Aussies were the first to embrace the choir outside of South Africa after visiting our shores in 2003 as part of their first international tour.
The tour encompassed 26 venues including a run of sell-out shows at the Sydney Opera House and earned the choir the Helpmann Award for Best Contemporary Music Concert in Australia.
“You know the biggest highlight for me I would say since I joined the choir was the first time we went to Australia,” Jiyane said.
“We performed in Sydney Opera House and people didn’t even know who we are but they came and we were sold out.”
Jiyane’s other highlight arrived this year. After picking up a second Grammy Award for best traditional world music for their album, African Spirit, in February, the Soweto Gospel Choir returned to South Africa.
It met with Nelson Mandela who danced as the 52-strong choir welcomed him with a song and showed their gratitude to the former South African president by presenting him with the prized gold trophy.
“After we won the second Grammy we took it to give to Nelson Mandela. The choir was so emotional because Nelson Mandela, he means a lot to us. “I’ll never forget it.”