By Destiny Reporter
April 26, 2013
Grammy award-winning group, Soweto Gospel Choir, is celebrating its ten year anniversary with its new album “Divine Decade” and an international tour.
It’s been two days since I was serenaded by the two-time Grammy award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir at its rehearsal and I’m still smiling. Gearing up for its Canadian tour in celebration of its ten year anniversary, it invited us for a preview of its set. The choir leader, Shimmy Jiyane, took us through the stories behind the songs that are part of the set list and welcomed us to the rehearsal space. Watching the group rehearse, it was easy to see why it has become an internationally acclaimed gospel group. Even though its body of work includes mostly local and international hymns, the group has a unique way of making them its own. “We love taking classics and making them our own because we see that as a challenge. And as a group we love to challenge ourselves musically,” says Jiyane.
The Soweto Gospel Choir has been winning over international audiences and musicians with a unique blend of gospel, accapella, soul and funk, dipped in African traditional sounds. In just a short space of time, it has bagged two Grammies, an Emmy and scored a nomination for the Oscars. International heavyweights like Bono, Celine Dion, Peter Gabriel and Josh Groban have all lined up for an opportunity to perform with the widely popular African act. Jiyane reminisces with such pride about the day the U2 frontman, Bono, asked to perform one of his songs. “He was going to perform at one of the 46664 concerts and he gave us one of his songs and asked that we add an African flavour to it. He came on the day of the rehearsal while we were rehearsing the song and he just went crazy. He joined us on stage and one of the production guys asked if he can hear the choir and his response was: ‘No, I can’t hear the choir, I can feel the choir,’ and from then on we developed a strong relationship,” he adds proudly.
In a celebration of the milestone, the act is releasing its album titled Divine Decade. Jiyane says that the group is very proud of the album as it shows growth musically and also incorporates a wide range of different sounds. “We do pop, rock, kwaito, because we collaborate a lot on this record,” he says. “We have collaborated with artists like HHP, The Soil, Elvis Blue, Lady Smith Black Mambazo, Zahara and Yvonee Chaka Ka because we wanted to show that we can work with anyone on this album”. With the new album, the act hopes to tour locally but mostly they say they are gunning for yet another Grammy.
Watching the band perform the songs on the set list, I can instantly imagine the reaction of the audiences that will have a pleasure of being serenaded by the act. With just keyboards, African drums and percussion, the group effortlessly transforms the rehearsal space into an arena. For the Canadian tour, it has included a repertoire of its most popular work, while also including a few new songs. The set list makes one cry, sing, dance, rejoice and reminisce. The second half of the set pays homage to South Africa heros who have paved the way for them, like Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, but it’s the tribute to Miriam Makeba that blazes a light to the set list. Jiyane says he strongly believes that the international crowds will enjoy the show and that it also wishes to bring the concerts to local audiences. In concluding he says: “We hope that the band will still be together for quite a long time but mostly we want to keep making great music that will keep inspiring people.”