By Vanessa Hernandez
October 30, 2018
Spreading joy to audiences globally for nearly two decades, the two-time Grammy award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir performed songs dedicated to love, freedom and forgiveness.
Soweto Gospel Choir performed Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in Rudder Auditorium as part of their “Songs of the Free” tour in honor of Nelson Mandela. Comprised of 20 of the best artists in South Africa, it is an incomparable and inspirational power of African gospel music. These uplifting performers have shared the stage with some of the biggest names in music including the late Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Josh Groban.
According to choirmaster and founding member Shimmy Jiyane, the Soweto Gospel Choir formed in 2002 to celebrate their heritage and showcase the raw talent that comes from South Africa. Jiyane said the clothing they wear in the show demonstrates the different tribes in South Africa.
“The show is not only music,” Jiyane said. “When Nelson Mandela is mentioned, we will speak about him and what he has done for the country. Then there is also dancing, dramas, and we even have one member who plays the keyboard. There are a lot of talents shown.”
The performance of the Soweto Gospel Choir ties back to the issue of segregation and the difficulties experienced in South Africa which must never be forgotten but forgiven, according to Jiyane.
“When it is all said and done, it’s just about the happiness,” Jiyane said. “We have to move on with our lives and celebrate. At the same time though we go through the emotions of what happened, and when we’re on stage we can finally say we’re free.”
Soweto Gospel Choir member and musical director Milton Ndlakuse said Nelson Mandela is a symbol for showing forgiveness, and he is someone the choir looks up to because of that quality.
“The second half of our show is a celebration that celebrates our unsung heros and all foreign heros who we try to present as one,” Ndlakuse said. “Being able to sing ‘Amazing Grace,’ gives us peace because like the United States we also come from segregation.”
Ndlakuse said his first performance with the Soweto Gospel Choir in Australia meant a lot to him because it was when he first traveled out of South Africa to perform, and the modern music they incorporate in the show now encourages their faith to carry on.
“Faith is also a big part of our show making it very important to the Soweto Gospel Choir,” Ndlakuse said. “It wasn’t easy, but due to the love of the music that we do it kept on encouraging us to continue.”
Communication freshman Lindsey Golden attended the show and said the Soweto Gospel Choir was an experience she had never felt before. Golden said experiencing a different culture sparked feelings of reverential respect.
“Just the soul and energy they put into their singing made them come to life on stage,” Golden said. “It made me feel connected to them. Their harmonies and vocals made me feel wowed and left me with goosebumps.”