Joy­ous cel­e­brate mak­ing fash­ion­able melodies

Sunday Times - - News The A-listers - By LEONIE WAG­NER

● Gospel group Joy­ous Cel­e­bra­tion are as se­ri­ous about ush­er­ing their au­di­ences into the pres­ence of God as they are about fash­ion. Per­form­ing since 1994, the multi-award-win­ning group has worked with a num­ber of stylists to help them cap­ture their au­di­ence’s at­ten­tion vis­ually.

For the group’s long­stand­ing stylist, Given Mabena, only the best fab­ric will do. Mabena has been dou­bling as a singer and the group’s stylist since their 17th al­bum, and is still mak­ing fash­ion­able melodies as they are pre­par­ing to record their 23rd al­bum.

“We don’t com­pro­mise when it comes to the fab­ric — we use the most ex­pen­sive, best qual­ity ma­te­rial. We’ve sourced fab­ric from Vereenig­ing, Cape Town, Kenya, Ghana and even as far as Ger­many. That’s how se­ri­ously we take our shows,” Mabena said.

The singer said as much as Joy­ous Cel­e­bra­tion were a gospel group they felt it was im­por­tant that au­di­ences could re­late to them.

“Chris­tian­ity should re­flect the beauty and class, and that should evolve with time. We go be­yond our imag­i­na­tions to ask what we can give the peo­ple. We want to be rel­e­vant, young peo­ple must look at us and see that there is life in God,” Mabena said.

While prepa­ra­tions for their live al­bum record­ing in De­cem­ber are in­ten­si­fy­ing, Mabena has yet to nail down a de­sign for this year. It is rare for the group to re­peat out­fits, ex­cept when they are do­ing al­bum tours lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

The brief for this year’s record­ing, from the choir’s co-founder, Lin­de­lani Mkhize, is it must be “fresh and funky”.

“We are work­ing on a new look for this year. We are hop­ing young peo­ple will see gospel can be fun, that it can be ‘lit’, as the young peo­ple say,” Mkhize said.

Mabena said he usu­ally draws in­spi­ra­tion from style mag­a­zines such as Hello and GQ. “I’m in­spired by the royal fam­ily, and I see Joy­ous Cel­e­bra­tion as a gem of our coun­try.”

Next week­end the group will be con­clud­ing their na­tion­wide tour of Joy­ous Cel­e­bra­tion 22: All for You. The au­di­ence can see the group in their mil­i­tary-in­spired re­galia.

“With All for You I wanted to por­tray that we are sol­diers for God and that we are se­ri­ous, that’s where the mil­i­tary look came from,” Mkhize said.

Both Mkhize and Mabena un­der­stand that their au­di­ence needs to be vis­ually stim­u­lated.

“Be­fore you open your mouth, you need to make sure you can ex­cite the au­di­ence. When you look clumsy, peo­ple won’t take you se­ri­ously,” Mabena said.

In any given show the choir, with its 46 mem­bers, has two to three out­fit changes. Soloists wear a dif­fer­ent out­fit for their par­tic­u­lar song.

“Ev­ery­thing is tai­lor-made. The mil­i­tary out­fits were fresh, con­tem­po­rary and made es­pe­cially for us. It comes to about R5,000 per per­son,” Mkhize said.

With main­tain­ing their so­cial rel­e­vance comes crit­i­cism. “We per­form to a large va­ri­ety of peo­ple and some­times con­ser­va­tive peo­ple com­plain that the ladies are show­ing too much. We should be re­spectable and pre­sentable in un­der­stand­ing who the au­di­ence is. It’s im­por­tant that the singer feels com­fort­able,” Mkhize said.

Re­quests to copy their looks have led to an­other ini­tia­tive whereby the group do­nates their out­fits to a choir in the var­i­ous cities in which they per­form.

* The group will be at the Sun Arena at Time Square in Men­lyn, on Satur­day.

Joy­ous Cel­e­bra­tion want to re­flect both beauty and class in their shows, which usu­ally en­tail two to three cos­tume changes.

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