By Scott Iwasaki
19 February 2006
Deseret Morning News
The mission of the Soweto Gospel Choir is to spread the message of love, unity and peace, according to director David Mulduhedzi. And it doesn’t matter if some audience members can’t understand the language.
“Music is universal in any country,” Mulduhedzi said by phone from his home in South Africa. “People can understand the spirit of the music. We sing in six of South Africa’s 11 languages, including English. But the message is the same. It’s about bringing people together.
“When we visit other countries, we know people won’t understand what we are singing, but we found out that no matter where we go, people like what they are hearing. They enjoy our music and that’s most important.
“It doesn’t matter if we sing for religious people or non-religious people. I have found, regardless of beliefs, we can make a connection with people.”
The 26-member Soweto Gospel Choir formed humbly in South Africa. “I was interested in gathering people together to make a gospel choir,” said Mulduhedzi. “We held auditions and found a lot of talent. We rehearsed five days a week and eventually went into the studio to record our first album, ‘Voices from Heaven.’ “
The album was released one year ago. And from there, the recognition blossomed. In addition to the album reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s World Music Charts, the choir was recognized as Best Choir in the American Gospel Music Awards and Best International Choir for the Gospel Music Awards.
Last November, the choir performed with Diana Ross as part of the “Unite of the Stars” concert, which benefited Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fun and the Unite Against Hunger charities. “That was one of our biggest rewards,” said Mulduhedzi. “We perform for charities and one we work closely with is Nkosi’s Haven (a Soweto-based organization that raises money for AIDS orphan establishments that receive no government help). We donate the money for food and other essentials.”
Last month, the choir released its second album, “Blessed,” which features traditional gospel songs and South African hymns. The choir even performs a rendition of Joseph Spence’s “I Bid You Goodnight” and a pop/doo-wop version of the hymn “Swing Down.”
Two other highlights are a Sowetoized version of Edwin Hawkins’ “Oh, Happy Day” and the well-known “Mbube,” which is recognized as the basis for “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
“We named the album ‘Blessed’ because we are blessed,” said Mulduhedzi. “We have been received all over the world. We have been to Scotland two times. We have performed in Europe and we have performed with Bono (of U2), Peter Gabriel and Jimmy Cliff. We are coming back to the United States for our second time and have found joy in our work.
“Our future goal is easy. We will continue spreading our message across the world. We will continue to write our own music and bring the traditional South African gospel hymns to new recordings.”