March 6, 2012
By Kaylyn Hlavaty
The two-time Grammy Award winner and Oscar nominee Soweto Gospel Choir is a group of not only singers but performers also who are leaving an impression on audiences around the world.
On Tuesday, the choir will perform at 7:30 p.m. at TempletonBlackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. The event is a part of its highly anticipated 43‑city North American tour that just kicked off Jan. 24.
“I never thought I would have the opportunity to travel outside of Africa and tour all these places with such an inspiring and amazing group,” said Vusimuzi Shabalala, musical director of the choir, tenor and keyboard player. “The feeling is so overwhelming and moving that it has been the happiest experience of my life.”
The choir first started in November 2002, and by December that year, it had recorded its first album, Voices of Heaven. The album reached No. 1 on the Billboard’s World Music Chart just three weeks after its U.S. debut.
In addition to the highly acclaimed vocals and instrumentals, one of the reasons the Soweto Gospel Choir has reached a wide audience is the ability its music has to relate to others. The choir can perform in six of the 11 official languages of South Africa as well as in fluent English.
The choir has appeared on shows such as The Today Show, Good Morning America and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, among many others. The choir has also performed with artists such as Josh Groban, Bono and John Legend.
“I never knew our talents would lead us to meet so many influential people like Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey. This has really opened up so many doors,” Shabalala said. “Now we are known as ambassador of Africa by God because He has given us this opportunity and support to perform our talents.”
The choir tours in three-month periods punctuated by two-week breaks in its home country of South Africa, totaling about nine months of travel per year.
Shabalala said the choir is looking forward to Tuesday’s show in Athens and is expecting a positive response from the audience.
“The audience will love the show,” Shabalala said. “Even if they don’t like it, the show will make you stand up on your feet because it is a moving and touching experience. Some people will even cry.”