Soweto Gospel Choir, a three-time Grammy-winning singing group, performed songs from its new album, “HOPE,” on Oct. 11 at Butler University’s Clowes Memorial Hall.
It was a performance to remember as the choir captivated the audience with its harmonious sound, lively dance routines and vibrant outfits.
Soweto Gospel Choir formed in 2003, and when you hear them live you will understand why the choir won a Grammy for Best World Music Album in 2018.
Released on Sept. 23, “HOPE” commemorates South Africa’s Freedom Movement and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The album was carefully curated to connect the African diaspora by singing songs that helped Black people grapple with oppression in the U.S., South Africa and Namibia.
The concert began with different South African freedom songs and several photos from the South African apartheid.
The album uses six different languages — English and five of South Africa’s 11 official languages: Sotho, Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi and Tswana.
The album also includes the choir’s renditions of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” which was released in 1964, as well as “Stand Up,” an original song from the 2019 film “HARRIET.”
Soweto, South Africa, is well known for the uprising that happened in 1976. Students from the Soweto Township in Johannesburg, South Africa, peacefully protested the government’s enforcement of teaching Afrikaans — a creole language which evolved in 19th century southern Africa that was widely regarded by Black South Africans as the language of the oppressor — in schools. During the protests, South African police fired tear gas and live ammunition, killing more than 170 protesters.
Members of the Soweto choir may not have participated in the uprising, but their unity and pride for their country express their willingness to persevere through some of the most difficult times.
The choir returned to Indiana and performed “HOPE” in Bloomington on Oct. 18. IU’s African American Choral Ensemble (AACE) director, Dr. Raymond Wise, said the ensemble attended the concert. Soweto Gospel Choir also led a workshop with AACE.
If you missed Soweto Gospel Choir perform in Indiana, the choir will continue its tour throughout the U.S., the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. You can also listen to the album on Apple Music and YouTube. For more information on tour dates and locations visit sowetogospelchoir.com.
Contact religion reporter Abriana Herron at 317-924-5243. Follow her on Twitter @Abri_onyai. Herron is a Report for America corps member and writes about the role of Black churches in the community.