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January 11, 2005

Soweto Choir Brings South African Gospel to U.S.


Gospel music has always been fueled by great choirs, and though names like Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and Mississippi Mass Choir are legendary, the United States is not the only country to produce such great musical traditions. Stateside audiences will soon become familiar with the considerable talents of the Soweto Gospel Choir. This month the South African group embarks on a 35-city North American tour supporting its American debut, "Voices From Heaven," on Shanachie Entertainment. The tour kicks off Jan. 28 in Gainesville, Fla., and concludes March 26 in Vancouver.

The Soweto Gospel Choir was formed in 2002 by its musical director, David Mulovhedzi. "We ended up with 34 very good members with very good voices," he says. "The first tour was Australia and New Zealand in April 2003. The venue that stands out most in my mind is the Sydney Opera House. It was just wonderful." The choir's profile in its native land increased in November 2003 when Nelson Mandela launched a worldwide campaign to raise awareness of the impact of AIDS in Africa and invited the group to perform along with Bono, the members of Queen, Peter Gabriel, Jimmy Cliff and Eurythmics.

The choir has also performed in Germany, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Mulovhedzi says touring North America has always been a goal. "The whole choir is excited about performing in the States, because we are bringing our traditional gospel," he says. "We as Africans are here to thank God for all the wonderful things he does for us. We have got different ways of doing that, because we sing and we beat drums, and dancing. When people come watch our music, they'll enjoy it, because there's a lot of action within the music itself." Mulovhedzi says South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo has helped pave the way for his choir. "We respect them and love them a lot," he says. "They have opened doors for most of the choral groups throughout the world."

"We're not reinventing the wheel here in the beginning because, happily enough, there's a lot to work with," Grass says. The label will target world music and eclectic noncommercial stations. A three-song sampler will be sent to gospel radio. Grass sees a broad audience for the Soweto Gospel Choir. "The shows have great costumes and dance. A lot of people don't realize dance is a part of church services in many parts of Africa. Some people in America might see that and say, 'It's show business,' but no, it's their worship. There are many dimensions. It's not just people standing there singing. It's the whole pageantry of it and all the emotion and energy."

Posted by acapnews at January 11, 2005 12:06 AM