Hope is the very thing that fuels dreams, spurs innovation and ignites perseverance. It costs nothing but yet it is worth everything. Critically acclaimed South African world music sensations Soweto Gospel Choir will release their highly anticipated first new recording in four years, HOPE, on Shanachie Entertainment September 23, 2022 on the eve of 53-city North American tour.
The three-time Grammy-winning Choir, whose staunch supporters have included both President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has performed for everyone from President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey and collaborated with Peter Gabriel, Bono, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé and John Legend, among numerous others.
“Both South Africa and America have experienced the same type of segregation and oppression,” explains the charismatic Choir Master Shimmy Jiyane. “Music was and continues to be a way that the people protest and express opposition. It can express suffering and reach the soul with a message of freedom and hope like nothing else. Through the universal language of music, people are unified globally and they are healed and given hope through the power of songs.”
The diverse material on HOPE speaks to the extraordinary range and capabilities of Soweto Gospel Choir, who has scored two #1 Billboard singles on the World Music Chart. Singing in English as well as five of South Africa’s eleven official languages including Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi and Tswana, Soweto Gospel Choir creates a riveting tapestry of lush harmonies and glorious rhythms.
Jiyane explains, “Many school children died. The song “Mbayi Mbayi” which opens the album is one of the songs that was sung that day. It is a very personal song for us all but especially for people who live in Soweto. We all have families that died on that road. We have families who went out and joined the march and they never came back.” The cover of Hope is designed by the sensational South African illustrator, graphic designer and street artist, Karabo Poppy. Poppy has an impressive list of credits that includes work for Nike where she designed Air Force 1 sneakers worn by Lebron James.
HOPE also features a dazzling version of Al Bell’s Stax classic sung by the Staple Singers “I’ll Take You There,” Stevie Wonder’s poignant “Heaven Help Us All” sung in English, Zulu and Sotho and Hugh Masakela’s “Sechaba,” from the hit musical Sarafina! which premiered at the Cannes film festival in 1991.
A particularly breath-taking moment on HOPE occurs on the Xhosa hymn “Bawo Xa Ndilahlekayo,” which means “Lord if I get lost, please lead me back to you.” The song is dedicated to the Choir’s beloved friend and leader, Mulalo Mulovhedzi who passed away in early 2022. Mulovhedzi, was a founding member and the General Manager of the choir. This was his favorite hymn. “We deeply feel his loss and are touched whenever we now sing it. It is as if Mulalo were still with us, taking his place beside us,” collectively shares the Choir.