March 30, 2012
By Chabella Guzman
From Holland to New York and finally to Scottsbluff, the Soweto Gospel Choir has been on a three-month tour that will stop at the Midwest Theater Sunday.
The group is made up of 26 members that come from all over South Africa. Sipokazi Nxumalo is one of the “family members,” as she puts it.
“I have been with the group since 2002, when I was just 19,” she said. “I’m originally from eastern Cape Port Elizabeth.”
She moved with her family to Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1997. Having grown up in a Christian home, she had been in choirs from a very young age.
Nxumalo knew she wanted to sing and had heard about “Pop Stars,” in Johannesburg, a show much like “American Idol”, that was looking for talent.
“After being in ‘Pop Stars’ I made a CD,” she said. Beverly Bryer heard her singing and asked her to join Soweto.
The singers in the choir all have musical training. Nxumalo said music is a big part of South African culture.
The group tours about nine months out of the year, and that can present challenges to the tightly knit troupe.
“We have different backgrounds and 26 different characters,” she said. “Traveling around the world, we miss our children, wives, husbands. Learning to share space was difficult for me.”
Nxumalo had never been away from her mother much, and at 19, had to learn to deal with others.
The distance has been made easier to handle with the Internet.
“Thanks for the ’net; it has really assisted us,” she said. “It is the only way to communicate with loved ones.”
For many in the group the choir is their full-time career.
“It’s a full-time career and a support for the family,” Nxumalo said. “When we leave, they’re (family) very happy, as they know we will bring good change in their lives when we come back.”
She is excited to be in America. The choir performed in New York recently with some of Nxumalo’s idols, including Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Queen Latifah.
“We grew up listening to them,” she said. “To work with them was really amazing.”