Another Grammy nod for Soweto choir

6 December 2010

South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir is looking forward to making space for another award in its already crowded trophy cabinet. The world-renowned singers have been 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.

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.

Other nominees in the category vying for the statuette are the Gyuto Monks of Tibet; Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba and Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate, both from Mali; and Vayo from Uruguay.

Winning the award would tie the choir with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who hold top spot among South African groups with three Grammys under their belts.

The choir also sings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on the song Baba Wetu, which was produced and arranged by Christopher Tin and has been nominated for an arranger’s award in the Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) category.

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.

Origins

Formed in 2002, the choir’s road to success has been a heart-warming one, a group of talented young Christians uniting in song to spread the gospel.

The late David Mulovhedzi, the co-founder and director, said: “The talent we showcase is in everything that we do; it’s a musical ministry. We are ministering through music, as we travel around the world singing the beautiful songs that we brought from South Africa.”

While the original members all came from Soweto, today auditions are held for singers from around South Africa.

“Many influences really played a major role in helping us to come up with a black gospel outfit in South Africa,” said Bev Bryer, the choir’s executive producer and director, in explaining its formation.

“Friends from Australia, the deacon from South Africa and people from Soweto asked us to form a gospel group. So in 2002, I and David Mulovhedzi started auditioning different groups from different churches and communities around the township.

“After the auditions, we came up with 32 beautiful voices and, of course, that is what we needed – that and self-discipline. Within a week the Soweto Gospel Choir was born,” says Bryer.

The rest is history. 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.

Charity

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. As of August 2010, the choir has raised a total of R8 886 901 for a number of charities.

In 2003, it founded its own Aids orphan foundation, Nkosi’s Haven Vukani, an outreach programme that helps home-based organisations 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 [the] orphans. We have to play a part in assisting those children.”

Source: City of Johannesburg