The award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir have been a favourite at the Fringe for years now, and it’s not hard to see why. Sixteen extraordinarily talented singers light up the stage with a performance that will have you tapping your toes and clapping your hands without even realising.
After an opening song in Xhosa, the audience are greeted in the eleven official languages of South Africa, before an array of songs sung in those languages are performed. Of course, few will be able to understand any that aren’t in English, but in many ways it doesn’t matter. The joy and happiness and love shines through in each of the choir members, and the audience can grasp the sentiment behind each number, even without knowing the words.
Every choir member has their own chance to shine, leading a song or providing occasional back up on the keyboard or traditional African drums. Choir Master Shimmy Jiyane is a particular highlight; his infectious energy and cheeky humour are a delight to behold.
The costumes are bright, colourful African dress, and many numbers are accompanied by wonderful traditional dances. A contest between the men and the women brings a comedic element to the show, and touching tributes to anti-Apartheid leaders such as Steve Biko are reminders of the very recent history of South Africa, and why they now celebrate. The final number, a hair-raising rendition of ‘Hallelujah’, is a fitting end to the show, which is a celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela.
There is so much talent in this choir, and many of the performers’ voices gave me goosebumps. Definitely not one to miss.