By Cheah Ui-hoon
7 June 2004
Business Times Singapore
Moving in sync and singing as one voice or in many layers of harmony, the Soweto Gospel Choir won over the audience with their passionate and powerful vocals last weekend.
This was obviously one of the highly anticipated arts festival shows, and those who went to hear them, went knowing exactly what they’d be hearing – pure vocals and a rocking rhythm.
It didn’t matter that they were singing songs in diverse South African dialects – with titles like Hlanganani, Vuma, Thina Simnqobile – that went whoosh over our heads, their fervour was infectious and proved that music is truly a universal language.
The singing was mostly done with a few solo singers and the choir providing the depth and fullness in a call-and-answer way – beginning with the rich, open solo voice for the first song, Jikela Emaweni.
The choir established their gospel roots right from the beginning and charmed us with ‘Sunday School songs’ like the one about the devil, actions and all (the generic symbol of horns on the head), and swept us up with their exuberant rendition of the traditional Amen. Singing was accompanied by dancing which came as naturally as their rhythm.
What was beautiful to watch was the individual personalities of the singers coming through, though they sang as one voice. Rhythmic drumming aside, and the occasional band accompaniment, the choir’s voices were best enjoyed a capella.
The gospel classic, Amazing Grace, for instance, was an incredibly moving piece done in perfect harmony in voices that soared and revered its verses, with male singers singing the solo parts in falsetto. It wasn’t grace alone that’s amazing, but the Soweto Gospel Choir as well.