One of the world’s best-loved choral ensembles will perform in Kenya for the first time in August.
The multiple award-winning group, Soweto Gospel Choir, will be in Nairobi for a concert on August 16. The group’s fans have been scrambling to get their hands on tickets to watch this exciting group that has won millions of admirers around the world.
“The choir is thrilled to be performing in Kenya, especially as this will be their first visit,” says Beverly Byer, executive producer and director of Soweto Gospel Choir.
“We can’t wait to learn more about Kenyan music and culture.”
The group’s performance trademark is incredible energy and spirit, colourful costumes, breathtaking vocals and dancing and drumming. Much of their captivating sound is composed and arranged in Zulu, Xhosa and other indigenous South African languages. Their broad repertoire ranges from traditional South African spiritual favourites like “Avulekile Amasango (The Gates Have Opened) to their rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah.”
The voices of the Soweto Gospel Choir can be heard on the soundtrack to the new “The Lion King” film singing “Circle of Life Nants’ Ingonyama” alongside fellow South African artist Lebo M.
The ensemble has recorded and performed with Beyoncé, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, U2, John Legend and a host of global superstars.
Their concerts have charmed global icons like Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the British Royal Family, US Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey among others.
They have performed at some of the grandest concert venues in the world, including New York’s Carnegie Hall, London Festival Hall and the Sydney Opera House.
The Soweto Gospel Choir was recently in the news with a breathtaking performance of the famous liberation song “Asimbonanga” at a memorial service for the late South African musician Johnny Clegg. Earlier in the year, they won their third Grammy Award for Best World Music Album for the album “Freedom” a 12-track tribute to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela. While paying tribute to them after the Grammy Award, President Cyrill Ramaphosa hailed the choir as “one of South Africa’s finest exports”
As the title suggests, “Freedom” contains a contemporary twist to some of the most popular liberation songs from South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. The music was recorded for a tour of Europe and America called “Song of the Free” comprising liberation songs combined with a selection of gospel. The choir has also won an Oscar for their work with British star Peter Gabriel on the song “Down to Earth” from the movie “Wall-E.”
The Soweto Gospel Choir was formed by Bryer and the late South African choral director David Mulovhezi in 2002 in the teeming township of Soweto, Johannesburg, historically known as the hotbed of South Africa’s liberation movement.
They have established an identity of African gospel, freedom songs and Western classics. Their international reputation was established after Bryer who is Australian but was born in South Africa organised what became the Soweto Gospel Choir for a tour of the country.
The sold out three-month tour was so successful and built a platform for the group to perform to packed audiences and win fans around the world for almost two decades now. Their debut album “Voices of Heaven” reached the top of the US Billboard World Music Chart within weeks of its release.
One of their milestones was performing at the 46664, the first HIV/Aids benefit concert in honour of Nelson Mandela held in Cape Town in 2003 when they backed artists like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and U2.
Their first Grammy was in 2007 for their second album “Blessed” in the Best Traditional World Music category while the second was in the same category the following year for the album “African Spirit”.
At the moment, the Soweto Gospel Choir comprises more than 50 members, including singers and a band that tours the world. Because of the global demand for their performances, the group has split into three identical units touring the world at various times. According to Beverly Byer, there will be 26 members, including a 4-piece band, during the performance in Nairobi. “The repertoire will primarily be gospel, both African and Western, and a few traditional and contemporary numbers. And plenty of dancing!” says Bryer.