Express Night Out
December 11, 2008
THE SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR may be a Christian group from South Africa, but you need not be saved to enjoy its music.
“We don’t only perform for Christians,” said Shimmy Jiyane, assistant music director and choreographer. “You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy our show; you just have to come to our show and enjoy yourself.”
After all, South Africans been forced to figure out ways to get along despite the many different ethnicities, religions and cultures that comprise the nation.
“In our country, we have 11 different official languages, and we have 20 to 40 cultures that are different,” Jiyane said. “We mostly sing a capella, but we’re open to any other kind of culture to bring their culture into our culture.”
You can hear the group’s multi-ethnic, multi-tongued approach on the group’s recent CD and DVD, “Live at the Nelson Mandela Theatre” (Shanachie), which was just nominated for a Grammy in the best contemporary world music album. That’s a strange designation for a CD that’s made up primarily of “songs taken from the hymn books, which have been done for a long time by our elders,” Jiyane said.
But the Soweto Gospel Choir does mix in a few contemporary tunes, including Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Remember You,” Vusi Mahlasela’s “River Jordan” and Bob Marley’s “One Love.”
“‘One Love’ is a song that talks about unity, it’s a song that speaks about peace, it’s a song that deals with the human spirit,” Jiyane said. “We do songs with a strong message, so when we do it and we put our African feel on them, we make sure people can feel the spirit of Africa — and the spirit of unity and love.”