Soweto Gospel Choir Celebrates Freedom & Nelson Mandela Centennial
On September 14, 2018 Soweto Gospel Choir will release its highly anticipated sixth Shanachie Entertainment recording, Freedom, a riveting collection of freedom songs from South Africa and beyond, marking the Centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth. The depth of the scope of the music on Freedom speaks to Soweto Gospel Choir’s extraordinary range and ability to take anything and make it uniquely its own while delivering it in the exhilarating and joyous fashion they have come to be celebrated for. It is fitting that this new recording falls on Nelson Mandela’s Centennial. Soweto Gospel Choir Music Director Diniloxolo Ndlakuse shares, “The significance of Nelson Mandela’s 100th commemoration to South Africans is, firstly and foremost a reminder of the role played by Nelson Mandela in moving South Africa from a position of being an undemocratic, oppressive society to one of a peaceful co-existence for all racial groups. Mandela represents love, peace, forgiveness and strength to the choir. He is a symbol of inspiration to the Choir.”
Soweto Gospel Choir sings in six of South Africa’s eleven official languages on Freedom but mostly in Zulu or Sotho, as well as English. The Choir’s first single is “Umbombela,” which means “train song,” is a composition that speaks of the travails experienced by black South Africans during the apartheid era, when migrant workers were forced to travel long distances away from their families in order to meet the harsh economic and political demands made by the government.
On October 4, 2018 Soweto Gospel Choir will kick off a blockbuster US tour. Anyone who has had the good fortune to attend a Soweto Gospel Choir concert knows what a moving experience it can be. Its inspirational performances transcend race, religion and age. The Choir is known to leave their diverse audiences in tears, dancing in the aisles and standing in praise and ovation.
With the release of Soweto Gospel Choir’s first recording, Voices From Heaven, in 2004 and its first international tour, the Choir exploded onto the international concert stage, playing prestigious venues on three continents. 2005’s Blessed earned the Choir their first Grammy which was followed by 2007’s African Spirit, which led to a second Grammy for the Choir. The choir also released a CD and DVD called Live at the Nelson Mandela Theatre in 2008 and in 2009. Soweto Gospel Choir became the first South African artists to perform at the Academy Awards, when they sang “Down To Earth,” the Gabriel/Newman Oscar-nominated song, with John Legend. In 2010, the Choir released its Grammy nominated recording Grace and they collaborated with U2 for ESPN’s promotional campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup earning a sports Emmy. 2013 saw the release of Divine Decade- Soweto Gospel Choir & Friends and commemorated the Choir’s 10th anniversary. It was a star-studded occasion being joined in celebration by the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Johnny Clegg among others. In 2014 Soweto Gospel Choir was invited to perform at the Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela at Westminster Abbey. The Choir was also selected to sing at the memorial service for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 2018. In the spring they also performed with Chance the Rapper at his sold-out concert at The Dome in South Africa.
Soweto Gospel Choir’s story is the best of many worlds-great music, great achievements and recognition but also great contribution through its inspiring charity, Nikosi’s Haven Vukani, which assists the victims of AIDS and their families in South Africa. The Choir’s greatest achievement of all may be the fact that it has raised over $1,500,000 for its charity. To date, over 9,000 children have been fed through registered organizations being supported by Vukani. Children’s school fees have been paid, orphans school uniforms have been purchased and appliances have been given in order to ease the load of women running soup kitchens to ensure that children receive at least two nutritional meals a day. Some of the additional resources the Choir has provided include security, electrical installations, plumbing, wheel chairs and school supplies.
The Choir’s presence on the international music scene is not regarded lightly by its Music Director Diniloxolo Ndlakuse who concludes, “It means a great deal as a choir that we get to share our dance, our diverse cultures and faiths and our love for God to the world. We hope to bring about a better understanding of South Africa by telling a story of where we come from, where we are and where we hope to be as a democratic nation.”