Soweto Gospel Choir
SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR was formed in November 2002. A month later their first album, Voices from Heaven, was recorded, and it reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s World Music Chart within 3 weeks of its U.S. release. In 2003 the choir won its first award, a Helpmann Award from Australia for “Best Contemporary Music Concert.” This success was followed when they won a 2003 American Gospel Music Award for “Best Choir,” and in the same year, a “Gospel Music Award” (U.S.-based) for “Best International Choir.”
In October 2006, the choir performed as invited guests for Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 75th birthday celebrations, in front of an illustrious audience that included former President Nelson Mandela, Zanele Mbeki, Tokyo Sexwale, Samuel L. Jackson, Alfre Woodard, and Carlos Santana. They were featured as guest performers with Diana Ross, Deborah Cox, and Danny K. for the “Unite of the Stars” Gala Banquet in South Africa in November 2006, and on the Today Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
In February 2007, Soweto Gospel Choir received its greatest accolade: a Grammy for their second CD, Blessed, in the category of “Best Traditional World Music.” At the same time, they were nominated for the 26th International Reggae and World Music Awards, held at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem in May 2007, in the category of “Contribution to World Music,” alongside Jimmy Cliff, Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour, and Ziggy Marley. Also in May 2007, the choir won a SAMA Award (South African Music Association Award) for “Best Live Performance DVD.”
To add to their string of national and international awards, in November 2007 Soweto Gospel Choir won a Metro FM Music Award for Best Gospel Album for their third album, African Spirit. In February 2008, the choir was awarded its second Grammy for African Spirit, in the “Best Traditional World Music” category
The choir has toured the world extensively, performing at prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House, the Nelson Mandela Theatre, and Royal Festival Hall in London. They have performed at high profile festivals such as the Edinburgh Festival, the Adelaide Festival, the Hong Kong Festival, and the London Festival, always to huge acclaim.
Soweto Gospel Choir received its third Grammy nomination in December 2008, this time in the category Best Contemporary World Music, for their album Live at the Nelson Mandela Theatre.
The song “Down to Earth” from the blockbuster Wall-E movie, their collaboration with Peter Gabriel, won a Grammy in the Best Movie Song category. In February 2009, the choir became the first South African artist to perform at the Academy Awards, when they sang “Down to Earth” with John Legend. During the same period, their newest album, Grace, charted in the top 10 of Billboard’s World Music charts
In March 2009, they were nominated for three SAMAs (South African Music Awards), for their CD and DVD Live at the Nelson Mandela Theatre, winning the Award for “Best Duo or Group.”
In May 2009, the choir was invited to perform at the Inauguration Ceremony of South Africa’s new President, and the choir was one of three featured African artists for the FIFA World Cup Draw held in Cape Town in December 2009.
In April 2010, Soweto Gospel Choir was honored with the inaugural International Achievement Award at the South African Music Awards held at Sun City. Also in April, the choir was invited to perform at the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 World Trade Expo, held in Shanghai, as the African representative.
They performed during the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert in Soweto, the night before the opening of the World Cup in June, with a select international and African line-up including the Black-Eyed Peas, Shakira, Angelique Kidjo, and John Legend. They are UN Envoys for Africa, and recorded and performed with other top African artists as part of the UN MDG “* Goals Away” campaign during the World Cup.
The choir is an Ambassador for Nelson Mandela’s 46664 campaign and has performed at the Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, and New York concerts with artists such as Peter Gabriel, Bono, Queen, Jimmy Cliff, Johnny Clegg, Eddie Grant, Amy Winehouse, Queen Latifah, Wyclef Jean, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder. The choir is also an Ambassador for the 1Goal campaign, which advocates education for all, and for SHOUT, which advocates Anti Crime
Soweto Gospel Choir has founded its own AIDS orphans foundation, Nkosi’s Haven Vukani, to assist organizations that receive little or no funding. To date, the choir has collected over R 4 million for their foundation. In South Africa, the choir performs for a variety of charitable organizations.