Sunday 31st May 2020,
Soweto Gospel Fans

Shimmy Jiyane of Soweto Gospel Choir Talks Singing and Dancing, Bringing Audiences to Tears, and What He Misses Most About Nelson Mandela

By: Jiddoe S’Phatt
Liquid Arts & Entertainment
November 15, 2018

Our next featured guest is a world-renowned choreographer, singer, dancer and choir director. He’s also a founding member of Soweto Gospel Choir. Honoring the memory of late South African President and civil rights revolutionary Nelson Mandela, the choir will perform at Wharton Center for Performing Arts on November 18, 2018. Please welcome to…Shimmy Jiyane! Shimmy, it’s exciting to know Soweto Gospel Choir will be performing at Wharton Center. For those who haven’t seen or heard you perform, what should they expect?

Shimmy Jiyane: What you’re going to hear and what you can expect is a choir who comes from South Africa, from the township of Soweto. You’re going to hear beautiful voices, and not only do they sing A capella but they also have dancers in the choir. You can expect a really entertaining choir with beautiful costumes who will be speaking about the icon Mr. Nelson Mandela. How does the dancing enhance what the audience experiences from the music?

Shimmy Jiyane: In South Africa whether we’re happy or sad we sing and dance. The dancing enhances the music because, you must understand, in South Africa we’ve got different tribes. And every tribe doesn’t just sing. The songs and the movements come from the roots of each and every tribe, so when you sing a song, you sing a song that’s accompanied by the dance moves that explain what we’re singing about. We sing about our struggle, and we’re telling a story about the struggles we had getting our freedom. The movements you see are a part of that story of people being oppressed. That’s powerful, Shimmy. How often do you have people respond to your performances with tears?

Shimmy Jiyane: To tell you the honest truth, it’s every day; every day we’re on that stage, every day we sing. When we’re on the stage we see people stand up to applaud and they have tears. We close the first half of our show with “Amazing Grace”, we end the show with “Hallelujah”. As soon as we start doing those songs people start tearing up. It takes people through the journey that we went through. Once it’s all said and done, once we’re done singing, people come and say, “Thank you”. People feel that! Crying is a great response to music and dance, especially when what’s been seen and heard is built on personal accounts. As a choreographer when did you first experience this type of reaction?

Shimmy Jiyane: I started performing for a dance company that was formed in Soweto. When we went to Australia and started performing there, the piece that we’d do was called “On the Strong Can Survive”. It was an emotional piece that spoke about the strength of a man and the strength of a woman. The audience was in tears, and I was just like, “Wow!” They saw the pain! You speak to the audience with the movement of your body. You don’t have to say a word. What’s the most powerful performance you’ve ever seen?

Shimmy Jiyane: We performed for Nelson Mandela and we did a song with the late Ms. Aretha Franklin, and we did a song with Stevie Wonder. And I saw the power Ms. Aretha Franklin had when she came on stage. She was a beautiful creature of God. People started applauding before her voice came out. She was about to sing and people were already in tears! We hand goosebumps before we could even open our mouths and sing. The emotions were very high. How much do you miss Nelson Mandela?

Shimmy Jiyane: You know… We miss him a lot. He was not only a president, he was not only “Nelson Mandela”, he was a father figure to us. Whenever he’d speak it was like he was speaking to his own family. Whenever that he spoke, whatever that he did, we took it. We understood it. We embraced it as a nation. He had a unique voice. When he’d speak, we’d all listen. That’s what we miss most. 

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About The Author

From the Great White North of Canada, Elaine is the owner and maintainer of SGF. Besides being a big-time Soweto Gospel Choir fan, she is passionate about world travel, technology, all sports and above all the great mangosteen fruit. Oh, and she can't sing to save her love! :)

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