An overnight sensation at its founding in 2002, the Soweto Gospel Choir has traveled across oceans and continents sharing its rich cultural heritage with everyday citizens and the stage with Presidents Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and celebrities like Bono, Quincy Jones and Patti LaBelle.
Bongani Ncube (Bon-Gah-Knee N-Cu-Bay) is one of the 24 energetic musicians touring North America with inspirational songs and dances that have captured Grammy Awards and multiple other honors from around the world.
"It's part of our nature to be as excited to perform for many people as it is for those who attend our concerts to be excited about hearing us," Ncube said. "As soon as we arrived in North America, we had a reception by the music-loving community. Some of our group have been with the choir since the beginning and for a few this is their first trip here. I've been with them for six years. My story is a little bit different because I went with a friend to an audition. When I realized that they needed instrumentalists as well as singers, I went back with my bass guitar, performed for them and was chosen."
|The Soweto Gospel Choir|
|Where: George Mason University Concert Hall|
|When: 4 p.m. Sunday. Pre-performance discussion 45 minutes earlier.|
|Info: $22 to $44, Family Friendly; youth through grade 12 half price with adult; 888-945-2468; gmu.cfa.edu.|
Everyone in the group plays an instrument and sings in perfect pitch. Ncube says this is something that simply happens. All were brought up in a musical community and never have to think about beginning on the correct note of each song, even without a cue. They know it automatically.
"The most difficult side of touring for the choir is being away from family for several months," Ncube said. "We all come from a tight community that regards each member highly. While we're on the road for eleven weeks, we sing and do everything together, just like a family, We love being on stage singing and dancing. This is a high energy show and sometimes it feels as if the audience is so excited that we get our energy from them."
He pointed out that there are actually two choirs. Each group stays together. One might be traveling in Europe or Africa while the other is in North America. This is necessary to have some on the road while others take time back home to learn new songs and new arrangements. Some of the songs in their programs are ages old; others are fresh, often composed by the members. Their arrangers are always busy writing new arrangements for the traditional songs or for their covers of popular songs.
"My greatest joy comes from seeing how excited people are about our message of love and opportunity," Ncube said. "We are bringing them our diverse culture from a rainbow nation. There are eleven different languages in South Africa. I speak Zulu and English and I know a little bit of the others because they are spoken by members of our group. Even though we have different backgrounds, we work together well to bring to our audiences the dynamics of rhythm, the vibrant colors of our beautiful costumes, the stirring dancing and our messages of peace,hope and love."