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Music that inspires

Elaine February 11, 2010 Articles No Comments on Music that inspires

By Victoria Phillips
The Gainsville Sun
February 11, 2010

Audience members can raise their hands, stomp their feet and lift their voices to the heavens when the Soweto Gospel Choir performs at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts tonight.

The ensemble from South Africa aims to inspire audiences with their mix of tribal, traditional and popular African gospel in the concert that begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $30 to $40.

“You can expect songs that will uplift your spirit and bring joy in your life,” says Sipokazi “S.K.” Nxumalo, lead alto singer and a founding member of the group, which was formed in 2002. “We are trying to show people the beauty that can come out of South Africa.”

Returning to Gainesville for the first time since 2008, the group performs with a four-piece band of guitar, keyboards, bass and drums in a production filled with costumes as colorful as the group’s singing and dancing.

Many of the songs the choir will perform are those that were sung by the group’s ancestors and forefathers, which makes the show both personal and touching, the 26-year-old Nxumalo says.

“It’s music that I was taught by my mother’s mothers,” she says. “When I sing, it comes from the deepest part of my heart.”

Vusi Shabalala, 31, has played keyboards in the group for almost seven years and is excited to be coming back to the town that in 2005 welcomed the choir for its first performance in the U.S.

“The first time we came to America we actually arrived in Gainesville,” he says. “That’s where we got the warm welcome. It’s our second home.”

Different from a traditional American gospel choir, the group expands beyond just one type of sound; its 2005 debut album, “Voices From Heaven,” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s World Music chart within three weeks of its release.

“They do contemporary numbers that aren’t traditional gospel and turn them into their own heartfelt versions,” says Toni Rudov, company manager.

The group’s new album, “Grace,” has a richer sound with more tightly blended harmonies, Nxumalo says.

Also new this time around are brighter, bolder costumes that represent the varying cultures and languages throughout South Africa.

“The blues, the oranges and reds, yellows and pinks, it’s just full of the diversity in our culture,” Nxumalo says.

After the performance, the group will collect donations for their charity, Nkosi’s Haven Vukani, which provides care for families victimized by AIDS. The charity also gives resources to AIDS organizations in South Africa that don’t receive government funding.

“Whatever we do, we are doing it for our country as ambassadors of South Africa,” Shabalala said. “We know the situation back home, especially when it comes to this pandemic. It’s wonderful to know our success is helping others.”

To date, the choir has raised more than $1 million from loyal fans, and the group hopes to continue to make an impact in the future in both America and South Africa.

“I feel like I’m a soul doctor when I’m up there,” Nxumalo says. “Bringing joy or change to someone’s life through song.”

Different from a traditional American gospel choir, the group expands beyond just one type of sound; its 2005 debut album, “Voices From Heaven,” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s World Music chart within three weeks of its release.

“They do contemporary numbers that aren’t traditional gospel and turn them into their own heartfelt versions,” says Toni Rudov, company manager.

The group’s new album, “Grace,” has a richer sound with more tightly blended harmonies, Nxumalo says.

Also new this time around are brighter, bolder costumes that represent the varying cultures and languages throughout South Africa.

“The blues, the oranges and reds, yellows and pinks, it’s just full of the diversity in our culture,” Nxumalo says.

After the performance, the group will collect donations for their charity, Nkosi’s Haven Vukani, which provides care for families victimized by AIDS. The charity also gives resources to AIDS organizations in South Africa that don’t receive government funding.

“Whatever we do, we are doing it for our country as ambassadors of South Africa,” Shabalala said. “We know the situation back home, especially when it comes to this pandemic. It’s wonderful to know our success is helping others.”

To date, the choir has raised more than $1 million from loyal fans, and the group hopes to continue to make an impact in the future in both America and South Africa.

“I feel like I’m a soul doctor when I’m up there,” Nxumalo says. “Bringing joy or change to someone’s life through song.”

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About The Author

From the Great White North of Canada, Elaine is the owner and maintainer of SGF. Besides being a big-time Soweto Gospel Choir fan, she is passionate about world travel, technology, all sports and above all the great mangosteen fruit. Oh, and she can't sing to save her life...one love! :)

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