Soweto Gospel Choir

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Soweto Gospel Choir

South Africa’s own Soweto Gospel Choir knows that a little faith goes a long way. “When we started out in 2002 no one knew who we were,” says founding member, choir master and choreographer Vincent ‘Shimmy’ Jiyane. “But we had faith in God and ourselves, and since then we’ve had some amazing opportunities.”

These days they’re renowned as one of the world’s greatest vocal ensembles and they have the fans to prove it. Having clocked up over 1000 performances in recent years, the 43-member strong group has performed for world leaders including President Obama, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, the British Royal Family and former President Clinton.

“Those performances are so memorable and definitely some of my highlights – but I have to say that performing with the legendary Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin was probably my favourite,” Shimmy smiles.

Other notable achievements include becoming the most awarded choir in the world. They’ve won four Grammys – two on their own merits and two in collaboration with other artists. Shimmy says they received an Emmy award for their work with Bono and U2 and were also given an Oscar nod when they were nominated for their collaboration with Peter Gabriel on the Disney Pixar film Wall E.

“We’ve become the biggest choir in the world and we’re very proud of that,” Shimmy says. “We have a lot of fun but we also work really hard.” The list of artists the choir has performed or recorded with reads like a best-of-the-best, including Andre Rieu, Josh Groban, Johnny Glegg, Diana Ross, Jennifer Hudson, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Robert Plant, Celine Dion, and Queen.

“The people of the world have responded to our music throughout the years, and it’s been a very good thing for us. We always had hope, we had faith, and we believed that things would go our way – you just have to hold on.”

The choir is named in honour of their roots in Johannesburg and the suburb of Soweto (South West Township), which was also the home of Nelson Mandela and the backdrop for a major uprising that took place to eventually bring democracy to South Africa. Their repertoire includes a mix of Gospel, South African traditional, popular classic and freedom songs.

So to celebrate, their 36-date Australian tour (aptly call ‘Faith’) will kick off this month, and Shimmy says we can expect an all-singing, all-dancing spiritual experience. “We can’t wait to bring this new show to Australia – there will be new costumes that capture the beauty of our country.”

Expect to hear a handful of new songs including a re-worked cover of Joe Cocker’s ‘Have a Little Faith In Me’: “That’s our new song,” Shimmy says. “Right now we’re actually recording our fifth album, so the audience can expect to hear songs from that. The music is beautiful and the harmonies are rich. It will be available to buy while we’re in Australia.”

Although the choir are no strangers to our friendly shores, Shimmy takes it one step further and claims Australia to be his second home. “It is a joy to come back, because Australia was the first place, outside of Johannesburg, that accepted us. You showed us love when we started in 2002. We weren’t sure if anyone would know us, but our first show sold out!” he laughs.

“People came and listened to us sing – and since then we’ve never looked back.”
For tickets visit

Written by Natalie Rogers

When & Where: Costa Hall, Geelong – July 30, Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo – August 2 & Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat – August 5.