October 18, 2018
Longview News Journal
Songs of hope and songs of freedom.
The music the Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa will present when it stops Oct. 27 at Longview’s Belcher Center tells the story of its country’s struggle — a struggle that America can relate to, said Diniloxolo Ndlakuse, known as Milton, the musical director for the choir.
“We can’t forget where we came from,” he said.
South Africa labored under racial segregation laws for decades in a system known as apartheid that forced black Africans to live and work separately from white Africans. A resistance developed, and violence erupted on multiple occasions.
Today, the country is free, Milton said.
“The first segment of the show, it is a struggle segment,” he said. “Where we come from — songs kept our hopes high. They made us feel better,” when the country was still segregated.
The second segment is his favorite part of the show, because it is “celebrating our freedom.”
The music is significant because Americans went through a similar time of segregation.
“We are relating our story,” Milton said.
The performance is unique in part because the choir sings in about six of South Africa’s 11 languages.
“It shows the versatility of what’s in South Africa,” he said.
It’s not a deterrent to audiences enjoying the music.
“Music is very universal,”Milton said. “What is important is the spirit. It all starts from the heart.”
Soweto Gospel Choir was formed in November 2002. Since then it’s earned two Grammy awards and performed at the Academy Awards. The group has performed with Bono and U2, Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, Aretha Franklin, Pharrell Williams, Stevie Wonder and Kirk Franklin. The Longview performance is part of a 50-city North American tour that began Oct. 5.
Milton said the group tries to symbolize where South African has come from through its music.
“We come from the struggle,” he said. “We try to relate that music to people who know what happened in the past in South Africa.”