By Munya Vomo
May 29, 2013
IF I told you the phenomenal Soweto Gospel Choir is only a decade old, would you believe me? I didn’t think so. The choir has released so much music it almost feels as if they are as old as Ladysmith Black Mambazo (LBM). But apart from also being a multiple Grammy Award winning outfit like LBM, the Soweto Gospel Choir has pretty much just begun.
“Our fans keep saying it feels as if we have been making music for the longest time, yet we feel as if we are in it for only two or three years. It is fascinating,” said the choir’s executive producer and director, Beverly Bryer.
She took us back to when the group first started and it turned out to be an unfamiliar, yet interesting and inspiring story.
“We had a promoter in Australia ask us to form a group to go and perform there at short notice as another choir had cancelled.We only had three months to prepare and I remember telling the members then that it was all experimental and we’d see how far it would go, but there were no promises. I asked if they wanted to take a chance on us and they did and here we are,” she said.
The fairy tale story did not end at them being hired to perform all over the world, even prestigious events like the Grammys took notice.
“We used to joke about getting a Grammy and now we have two wins and four nominations. There are thousands of talented shows out there so for us to gain such success is really a big deal,” she said.
The secret of the group’s success lies in their ability to adapt music to cater to a wider audience.
“We did something different by taking all genres and turning them into choral music. This makes the group accessible to a bigger audience who do not necessarily enjoy gospel music,” said Bryer.
The 10-year anniversary will see the group tour Canada for a month to perform at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
“We have never been able to tour Canada extensively. Whenever we go there it is always as part of the US tour, so this time around we get to concentrate on them alone,” explained Bryer.
Also to mark their 10 year milestone, the choir has just released a new album titled Divine Decade, which is a star-studded affair featuring numerous local artists.
“It is more Soweto Gospel Choir and Friends. We have the likes of U2, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, HHP, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Zahara and The Soil,” said Bryer.
“It is an interesting compilation as it has different genres which cater for different fans.”