I currently working on one project based on World Music, so you see a lot of post about ethnic music from different corners of the Earth.
And one of the first posts is dedicated to Soweto Gospel Choir, gospel group from South Africa. Mixing African gospel with traditional hymns, Jamaican reggae, American pop, and spiritually themed secular songs, the Soweto Gospel Choir are an impressive performing unit. Formed in Soweto in 2002 by choir directors David Mulovhedzi and Beverly Bryer, the group includes 30-some members and the show it produces is a powerful expression of hope and joy full of gorgeous South African vocal harmonies.
The choir’s debut album “Voices from Heaven“, appeared in 2005 from Shanachie Records, followed that same year by “Blessed“, also on Shanachie. “African Spirit” was released two years later in 2007 on the same imprint. In December of 2009 the choir lost co-founder and musical director David Mulovhedzi to cancer. In January of 2010 they released “Grace“, their fifth album on the Shanachie imprint.
The world-renowned singers recently have been again nominated for a Grammy Award for their fifth album, “Grace“, in the Best Traditional World Music Album category. It’s the group’s fourth Grammy nomination in five years. The albums “Blessed” and “African Spirit” won Grammys for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Other silverware in the choir’s trophy cupboard includes an American Gospel Music Award for Best Choir in 2003; Gospel Music Award for Best International Choir in 2004; and a Helpmann Award, Australia’s prestigious Performing Arts Award, for Best Contemporary Music Concert in 2003.
“Grace“, released on the Universal Music label, was produced by Robin Hogarth and Zwai Bala, and directed by Lucas Bok, Vusi Shabalala and Diniloxolo Ndlakuse, working with engineer Richard Mitchell.
The choir has performed with international heavyweights such as U2, Celine Dion, Peter Gabriel, Queen, Diana Ross, Johnny Clegg, Jimmy Cliff and Bebe Waynans. It has performed sold-out concerts around the world and sung for Oprah Winfrey and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former presidents Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Bill Clinton, to name a few.
Part of the choir’s philosophy is giving back to the community. This is done by donating money it raises to orphanages and community groups. At the conclusion of each performance, the Soweto Gospel Choir invite audiences to donate with funds 100% of the funds going to the many AIDS Orphans Establishments which receive no government or private funding with 100% of the funds collected through concert donations going direct to the charity. To date, Soweto Gospel Choir have raised almost $1 million from audience donations and last year fed, clothed and housed over 600 orphans.
In 2003, it founded its own Aids orphan foundation, Nkosi’s Haven Vukani, an outreach program that helps home-based organizations in townships. Those it helps include Sizanani Home-based Care in Orange Farm, Tsogang Sechaba in Protea South, Rosca House in Braamfontein, Living Hope in Germiston and Hillbrow Home of Hope.
“Vukani was made what it is today with the donations that we have received at our shows,” Bryer says. “We are seriously trying to make a better life for orphans. We have to play a part in assisting those children.”
If you want to see how Soweto Gospel Choir looks when they sing, I collected 10 videos from their Live performances, starting with classical Christian hits and following with traditional African songs.