September 16, 2009
By Matthew Jenkin
Fresh from school, Sipokazi Luzipo was picked from obscurity to join the now world famous Soweto Gospel Choir. MATTHEW JENKIN catches up with her as she embarks on the Grammy award-winning choir’s third UK tour.
AFRICA has spawned some of the most evocative and inspiratiional sounds in the world.
It is therefore no suprise that South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir has become a global phenomenon, with sell-out tours around the world and a clutch of awards, including two Grammys.
The 26-member group of singers, whose dulcet tones are accompanied by traditional African music and dance, will be bringing their inspirational show to Croydon’s Fairfield Halls.
Narrator in the show Sipokazi Luzipo joined the choir when it was formed in 2002 and says she had just finished high school when she was told her audition had been successful.
The 26-year-old said: “My mum was a single parent so it was really going to be hard for me to further my studies. So my initial hope was to save money.
“Every year I say I will leave, but it is has been so successful. I have grown in so many areas in my life that it is now hard to leave.”
The choir has performed with some of the world’s most profilific and diverse musicians and singers, including Bono, Peter Gabriel and even the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
But for Sipokasi, one of the most emotional moments was singing for former South African president Nelson Mandela, first at a concert in Cape Town in 2003, and twice this year in Johannesburg and for his 90th birhday celebrations in London.
She said: “There was such a great presence about him.
“It was breathtaking to actually meet the man. There is something about him that is so heavenly. He has such a powerful presence that when he walks in the room you cry.”
Sipokazi insists success has not gone to the choir’s heads.
She said: “We didn’t think we would be so successful. It has been all over the world and wherever we go the reception is the same. People are just mad about the choir and are inspired.
“I think for me the secret of our success is passion and simplicity.
“It is the passion that we have as young South Africans to have been given the opportunity to travel the world and show people the beauty that can come out of Africa.”
Sipokasi says Soweto’s current UK show will include a mix of traditional African songs and contemporary classics, such as Oh Happy Day and Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Despite singing in six different languages, Sipokasi’s narration in English explains what each song is about.
She said: “It is an absolutely beautiful show and really spirited.
“It is totally different to anything we have done because we have taken on some new numbers.
“What makes our show so unique is that we don’t just stand and sing. Throughout the show we are moving.
“There is lots of expression and feeling in our music because that is the life we live in Africa.”