January 19, 2013
the AU review
Pending their upcoming shows in Australia, I ask Sipokazi of The Soweto Gospel Choir seven questions.
10 years! It’s an honour speaking with you at such a momentous milestone. How has the journey been for you all so far?
Oh the journey has been amazing. Australia is very special to us because Australia approved the choir. They told us, OK we’re going to Australia and if the show works there it will work everywhere. We got everything together and turned it into a performance – costumes, drums, everything. Taking people through a total journey of South Africa. Us coming back home – we back.
To have such success as a choir is pretty rare. Did you always imagine that you would be world renowned and recognised?
I always wanted to perform in front of people. I didn’t think I would be part of a choir that would be so big. What we are is 26 young South African’s sharing something so special. I realised, ok, this is big. I am blessed.
You have performed with and for a long list of preeminent and celebrated people, from Desmond Tutu to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Have there been any outstanding highlights in particular that have blown you away?
Desmond Tutu was amazing. There were 25,000 people in the audience ready to hear the opening act. We were so nervous but they just loved it. It has been a really exciting journey as we grew up listening to those people on the radio or watching them on TV. It’s always breathtaking and we are just trying to bring them some choir magic.
As World Music artists there’s no doubt you pick up influences from all over. How would you describe your music in your own words and what in particular are your main influences?
Because it’s gospel it’s really deep and we all have such strong bonds to our country South Africa. You know music to us has always been very important. During the tough times we would go to the Church and hide and sing. In the time of the apartheid and such a painful time we created music. For us it is not just about opening our mouths and singing. It is for remembrance. We always try to bring a message of hope, love, forgiveness, and peace. We hope that our audience leave with optimism and hope.
If I’m right you’re in the Netherlands right now before you grace the stages here in Australia to play the capital cities, and of course WOMAD in Adelaide. After your first Australian sell out show in Frankston in 2007, are you excited to return?
Australia is like our second home. All the cities are amazing. WOMAD is going to be something very special – normally we are just on tour through venues. But this will give us a chance to work with different artists and go to workshops and learn new things. The choir is really excited – we have new costumes, new dance moves, and so much excitement.
The Choir is involved in so many different things from charities to soundtracks. What is coming up next for you?
We’re really working up to Australia and our tour there. We also have a lot of more touring and a new album coming out in early 2013.
I can’t wait to see you perform in Melbourne. You always bring such amazing energy and passion to your shows. How does it feel when you’re on stage?
Oh it’s just amazing – you forget about any problems you have when you’re on stage. One song can change or move someone. The youngest choir member is 25 and the eldest is 40-something, but you know, we dance, we get down [laughs]. I think for us as young South Africans this is what we want to do and love to do and we’ve been granted this opportunity. We’re part of a lucky few.