January 26, 2012
By Kelsey Meany
The Soweto Gospel Choir, a seasoned bunch of soul-singers, is coming to Gainesville to perform at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 3.
The two-time Grammy and Emmy award-winning choir from South Africa is touring the United States from January to April. The nomadic group is stopping in Gainesville for one night only.
O, The Oprah Magazine, said of the choir, “The 26-member troupe proves that joy is nondenominational… Soweto Gospel Choir makes our world seem beautifully small.”
Kevin Williams, a guitarist and vocalist for the group, is excited for the tour and to be back in the United States.
gospel-2He said that people from all over come to see The Soweto Gospel Choir perform. They have performed in Australia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America.
“We do not call them fans,” Kevin says. “We call them family, because wherever we go, we are accepted.”
The choir, in addition to earning many awards, has performed for former president Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno. The Soweto Gospel Choir has even performed with top artists such as Bono and John Legend.
“We do a lot of gospel songs. Most of the songs—although we sing them in different languages—still have the same messages. Even if you don’t understand it, you can still get the feeling,” he says.
The musicians and vocalists, however, believe that it is their duty to support individuals who are less fortunate, specifically those affected by AIDS. The choir’s charity “Nkosi’s Haven/Vukani” has offered aid in the form of food and clothing donations, payment for funerals, and helping young children who have become orphans as a result of the AIDS outbreak. The program has raised more than $600,000 through the choir’s performances.
The choir blends traditional South African vocals and dress with some components of popular songs. The group has been known to include songs like Bob Marley’s “One Love” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Arms of an Angel.”
gospel-1The Soweto Gospel Choir made its American recording debut with Shanachie Entertainment in 2004 when they recorded “Voices from Heaven.” This song hit number one on the Billboard World Music charts and was in the top five of CMJ’s World Music charts. The choir’s album Blessed followed in 2005. The fifth album, African Grace, was released in 2011.
Tickets are currently on sale for the event in Gainesville and run at about $30 each, with discounted tickets available for students.
“No matter the weather, no matter where we are, we are never shaky and we are never nervous,” Kevin says. “We are always excited to be on stage.”