Come meet a Choir extraordinaire, one that is like none other. They didn’t attend any Music school, neither can they read any musical scales. Yet since this amazing Group of Minstrels came on the scene, African Gospel Music has never been the same again. Let me introduce to you one of African’s finest musical exports to the World – The Soweto Gospel Choir.
In November 2002, Two Choir Directors, David Mulovhedzi and Beverly Bryer formed the 32-man Choir in Soweto, South Africa. They went around the many Churches in and around Soweto, held auditions and selected the best musical talents. Their goal was simple – to share the joy of faith through music. Since then, they have consistently wowed audiences around the globe with their fine blend of Traditional African Music, Gospel and Pop.
Executive producer, Director and co-founder Beverly Bryer couldn’t have described the Choir better when she said in an interview – “They’re not like most choirs, where they come and they sing. Everything has a movement, a natural movement they’ve grown up with. It’s a show, it’s a performance, and it’s just an incredible energy… We knew once we had our group and they did one show – everybody knew this is something special. There’s such a natural talent in South Africa”.
The group seems to very easily adapt western styles of music for a sound uniquely its own. Bryer has experienced this a lot of times but one particular instance comes to mind. The Soweto Gospel Choir was to perform with Bono of U2 fame for Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebration. Bryer recalls “They were going to back him on ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,’ and they literally had not heard the song. They listened to it for 10 minutes, huddled together in a little group, and within 10 minutes they had worked out their own harmonies. And they did it. I don’t know how they do it.”
“It floors me every time,” she said. “It just comes together so easily and so quickly that people hear it and think it’s ages and ages of training. Most of the time it isn’t, but it sounds just right.”
Signs of the huge success which was to attend their paths came very early. Just a month after the Choir was assembled, they recorded their first album “Voices of Heaven”. Within 3 weeks of its release in the United States, it rose to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard’s World Music Chart. What a feat! That was just the beginning. The next year (2003), the waterfall of awards started to flow. In far away Australia, they won their first award, a Helpmann Award, Australia’s prestigious Performing Arts Award, for “Best Contemporary Music Concert”. In the same year, they also won American Gospel Music Award for “Best Choir”. Imagine an African Choir winning the Best Choir Award in America that is loaded with amazing musical groups.
On 11 February 2007, Soweto Gospel Choir received its biggest award, a Grammy Award for their second CD “Blessed”, in the category “Best Traditional World Music”. In May 2007, the choir won the South African Music Association Award for the Best Live Performance DVD. A second Grammy Award was to follow in February 2008 when the choir was celebrated for their third album “African Spirit”, in the “Best Traditional World Music” category. Also in February 2008, the choir was honoured with the PanSALB Award for Multilingualism and Nation Building, for “Album of the Decade”.
They have performed for President Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Prince Charles and Camilla, Oprah Winfrey and 200 of her V.I.P. guests, including Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige, Tina Turner, Patti Labelle, Sydney Poitier and Quincy Jones.
They have also performed with Diana Ross, Deborah Cox, Danny K, Celine Dion, Bebe Winans, Kirk Franklin, Robert Plant, Josh Groban, Bono, Vusi Mahlasela, U2, Andre Rieu just to mention a few. They collaborated with Peter Gabriel in doing the song “Down To Earth” from the blockbuster Wall-E movie and they won a Grammy in the Best Movie Song category. In February 2009, the choir became the first South African artistes to perform at the Academy Awards, when they sang “Down To Earth”, the Gabriel/Newman Oscar-nominated song, with John Legend. Bono described them as “brilliant”!
In May 2009, the choir was invited to perform at the Inauguration of South Africa’s new President. They were one of three featured African artistes for the FIFA World Cup Draw held in Cape Town in December 2009. They completed the round as they also performed at the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert in Soweto, the night before the the opening of the World Cup in June 2010, with a star-studded line-up which included the Black-Eyed Peas, Shakira, Angelique Kidjo and John Legend.
The choir has toured the world extensively, performing at prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House, the Nelson Mandela Theatre and Royal Festival Hall in London. They have performed at high profile festivals such as the Edinburgh Festival, the Adelaide Festival, the Hong Kong Festival, and the London Festival, always to huge acclaim.
Come 7th December, 2012, the Soweto Gospel Choir will be performing live at the biggest gospel concert in the whole world. It is happening at the Experience 2012 Concert, Lagos, Nigeria, which is organised by the House on The Rock (HOTR) Churches Worldwide.
They didn’t start out thinking they will rule the world. They just planted the seed. They just took a step, then took another one, and another one…. Today, they are globally acclaimed. Today, they rule.
Take that step today.
© 2012 – 2017, Arise Arizechi. All rights reserved.