Multi-Grammy Award-Winning Soweto Gospel Choir has recently released their brand new album HOPE. The Choir, whose staunch supporters have included both President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has performed for everyone from President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey and collaborated with Peter Gabriel, Bono, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé and John Legend, among numerous others.
The diverse material on HOPE speaks to the extraordinary range and capabilities of Soweto Gospel Choir, who has scored two #1 Billboard singles on the World Music Chart. Singing in English as well as five of South Africa's eleven official languages including Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi and Tswana, Soweto Gospel Choir creates a riveting tapestry of lush harmonies and glorious rhythms.
We are honored to catch up with choir master of Soweto Gospel Choir, Shimmy Jiyane, to talk about the new album.
Q: Let's start with the choir: give us a brief history of how and why the choir was set up.
A: Soweto Gospel Choir was formed in 2002 in South Africa, Soweto. The main reason behind the formation of the choir was to celebrate the heritage of South Africa and its different cultures, faiths and music.
Q: Let's talk about your new album, why is it titled HOPE and what is the message the choir wants to share with people?
A: Our new CD is titled HOPE because the world needs hope and people everywhere need hope. Everything is not OK around the world. Our leaders are failing and worst thing has been that we were all affected by this terrible Covid19 pandemic. It has taken peoples lives, houses and jobs, among other things. As artists we have also suffered through covid. But through it all, music has to be the one thing that brings hope to the people. It is able to to ease our frustrations and pain and let us know that there's hope at the end of it all because we all serve a faithful and loving God.
Q: I love the album cover, what's the significance of it and who did it?
A: Thank you...Karabo Poppy is the wondeful artist that did the album cover. It's significance is that it beautifully conveys our roots and strong culture and heritage.
Q: I have read that the choir rehearsed the new songs at the Mofolo Arts Centre in Soweto. What's the significance of this location?
A: Mofolo Art Centre is a centre of the arts where artists gather an create magic.
Q: I am excited that you have included a Stevie Wonder cover sung in three languages. Tell us more about this song and why it this song and Stevie Wonder was selected?
A: "Heaven Help Us All," Lord hear our prayers. 2020 was the year when people were falling and they had no answer but the 1970 classic by Stevie wonder feels totally fitting for the times. It speaks to the hope we talking about on the album which is why we chose it. Heaven has to help the people of the world.
Q: How do you hope the songs on this new record will impact the lives of your listeners?
A: We hope that the record will impact the lives of our listeners in a positive way. What we sing about in the album is what we've been through. We have poured are hearts into this album and we hope it reaches the souls and spirits of our listeners in a positive way and that it encourages them to do well and to have hope.
Q: I have read that the choir has charity organization that does work with children affected by AIDS. Why is it important for the choir to give back and help others?
A: We feel that we are ambassadors of South Africa. It is always important to give back to our community. We also come from humble beginnings and being there for those kids means the world to the choir.
Q: How different or the same is American and South African Gospel music in its sound and messages and who are some of the American Gospel artists that you personally enjoy?
The difference between American and South African Gospel music is not that much because we call on the same God.
Some of my favorite gospel artists from America are:
John P kee
The Williams Brothers
The Clark Sisters
and Kirk Franklin...just to name a few .
Q: The choir will also embark on a major North American tour. Tell us more about this tour and what our readers can look forward to at your performances?
A: Your readers must be prepared for a moving show and music. Most importantly we want to show that Black South Africans and African Americasn not only share similar identities, but we also share similar historic struggles. Concert goers must ready to be thrilled by the power of the music, dance and drums from Soweto!