March 4, 2014
The Arkansas Traveler
The Soweto Gospel Choir will be coming to the Walton Arts Center7:30 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 6, as part of the 10×10 Arts Series. The ensemble is a 24-member Grammy award-winning choir from South Africa that was formed in November 2002.
In 2003, Soweto Gospel Choir established its own AIDS orphans foundation called Nkosi’s Haven Vukani. This foundation was founded to help other organizations and families that do not receive much government funding, as well as raise international awareness about children orphaned after losing their parents to AIDS.
Shimmy Jiyane, one of the founding members of the gospel choir, said that this will be their first appearance in Fayetteville, and even though it might be cold, they’ve toured enough that they are getting used to it.
Their first album was recorded in December 2002, and within just three weeks, the choir reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s World Music Chart.
“In 2002, we didn’t just start a gospel choir. We didn’t just start singing to sing. We started an ensemble of African Christians that love God, love the faith and who want to teach true happiness,” Jiyane said. “We grew up being taught to go to church, to pray, love God. With our choir, we opened up a whole new blessing. It is not difficult to connect with each other, and when we perform it’s not difficult to connect with the audience.”
Along with their numerous awards and appearances, such as “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” NBC’s “The Today Show” and the “WALL-E” soundtrack alongside Peter Gabriel – they won a Grammy in the best movie song category. They were also featured in Jennifer Hudson’s “Bleed For Love,” a song coming off the soundtrack for her new movie, “Willie Mandela.”
In December 2006, they performed in Sun City, South Africa, for Oprah Winfrey and 200 guests, including Mariah Carey, Tina Turner, Patti Labelle, Sydney Poitier and Quincy Jones, according to the Soweto Gospel Choir’s website.
In November 2007, Soweto Gospel Choir was awarded the Metro FM Music Award for Best Gospel Album for their third album “African Spirit,” based on nominations from the public as well as the radio station’s subscribers. In February 2008, the choir earned their second Grammy for the same album, “African Spririt,” in the “Best Traditional World Music” category. That same month, the choir was honored with the Pan South African Language Board award for Multilingualism and Nation Building.
The choir has toured around the world, performing at distinguished venues like Carnegie Hall, the Nelson Mandela Theatre and Royal Festival Hall in London. They have also performed at well known festivals such as the Edinburgh Festival, the Adelaide Festival and the London Festival, each time welcoming a great audience and immense praise.
In December 2008, Soweto Gospel Choir received its third Grammy nomination in the category “Best Contemporary World Music” for their album, “Live at the Nelson Mandela Theatre.” In February 2009, the choir became the first South African ensemble to perform at the 81st Academy Awards, where they sang their Oscar-nominated song “Down To Earth” with John Legend.
In six years, Jiyane said he sees the choir doing what they do best: giving people good music and a good soul.
“If you are coming to see the show, come to enjoy the music and traditional African art. There will be so many beautiful colors on stage and we are planning to have a show to refresh, revive and enlighten,” he said.
Tickets range from $10 to $25 and can be purchased on the Walton Arts Center website or by calling the box office at 479-443-5600.