They take South Africa’s com­plex his­tory to an in­ter­na­tional stage and con­nect with au­di­ences on a level all about the feels. They are Soweto

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE & LOUD | PLAY - CATHER­INE LAM­BERT Soweto Gospel Choir, The Arts Cen­tre Gold Coast, Sun­day

When Shimmy Jiyane joined the long au­di­tion queue for the Soweto Gospel Choir 14 years ago, he never ex­pected to be ac­cepted let alone re­main for years.

“The show re­ally changed my life in ways I never ex­pected,” Jiyane says.

“It brought new chal­lenges in my life and opened up so many things for me. On a wider level, it made peo­ple pay at­ten­tion to us as a na­tion and to the choir.”

Jiyane, 42, is now the choir mas­ter of the Grammy award­win­ning choir de­spite join­ing as a dancer as a 28-year-old.

He now cre­ates much of the chore­og­ra­phy for the show that has per­formed more than 1,000 times around the world.

“To be hon­est, danc­ing will al­ways be my first love ... be­cause I’m a qual­i­fied pro­fes­sional dancer, but now I love singing too,” he says.

“When I got to the au­di­tion I had to dance and sing at the same time. Luck­ily I knew how to sing and they loved my voice.”

Singing comes from the soul for the Soweto Gospel Choir. They sing to re­mem­ber their past and to cel­e­brate the fu­ture. Jiyane still lives in Soweto, 10 min­utes from where Nel­son Man­dela lived, and he is proud to call the former shanty town his home.

“When you see us on stage and what comes from us, it is ex­actly what we feel when we sing,” he says.

“It’s emo­tions linked to where we come from as a na­tion and we bring peo­ple closer to what we have seen and felt through song.”

It was one of his ca­reer high­lights to per­form for Man­dela, along with the likes of Des­mond Tutu, the Bri­tish royal fam­ily and US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

On their Aus­tralian tour they will per­form some songs from their new al­bum, Faith, and their reper­toire in­cludes gospel, tra­di­tional South African mu­sic, in­ter­na­tional clas­sics and free­dom songs.

“The choir right now is on an­other level and we’re so happy to be com­ing to Aus­tralia be­cause we re­gard it as our sec­ond home. Aus­tralia is where we got our first sense of what we could achieve be­cause we had so much en­cour­age­ment.”

Shimmy Jiyane fronts the Soweto Gospel Choir.

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