By Kate Saunders
June 28, 2011
Taranaki Daily News
Vusimuzi Shabalala says Africans are born dancing – and his choir is ready to show Taranaki just that.
The musical director for The Soweto Gospel Choir will be wrapping up warm when he returns to New Plymouth this week with the group’s new show, African Grace.
“Our sound is quite unique, it’s something that’s not common around the world. But it’s one of the best because we bring out what South Africa is made of,” he said.
“We have 11 official languages, lots of cultures and we try and mix all that together in our group with the music we sing and the costumes we wear.”
It is the Grammy-winning choir’s second visit to Taranaki after playing here in 2005.
The show includes 26 singers, dancers and musicians who perform both traditional and contemporary songs.
“As a choir we feed from each other.
“When we move on stage you can tell we love what we do. This is what we grew up doing, it’s in our nature, music and movement.”
Shabalala is a case in point.
Having grown up singing in church, he can hold a mean tenor tune and plays the piano and keyboard.
The choir has been together a decade, and while Shabalala was not a founding member he has clocked in nine years and is well versed on what the audience enjoys.
“When we started we were just little babies and musically we weren’t that trained, but we’ve grown so much so that now we’re working with real stars.”
Those include Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Bono.
However, one man holds a special place in the choir’s heart – Nelson Mandela, for whom they performed in 2003.
“He’s a humble person, the father of South Africa, he means a lot to us. We know about democracy because of him. I’d say he’s the father of the world.”
And perhaps his example has been an inspiration for the choir.
In 2003 it founded its own aids orphanage foundation, Nkosi’s Haven Vukani, which supports families and organisations that receive little or no government support.
To date, it has collected more than $US1.5 million for the foundation.
“I think that what we’ve done for the country, through that charity, is our greatest achievement.”
As for the current situation in Soweto, he said it is a changed place.
“It’s beautiful. Now you find white people walking around the streets at night, that was not happening before.”