Amazing Mazwe bringing Gospel down under

Soweto Gospel Choir 'dream come true' for child of apartheid Mazwe Shabalala

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They've sung with Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, now the Soweto Gospel Choir is celebrating the legacy of Nelson Mandela on its Australian tour.


AS A young boy growing up in the township of KwaMashu, near Durban in South Africa, Mazwe Shabalala knew 'something wasn't right'.

"I remember the times of apartheid. I was just 13 years old, I could see everything going on," said the singer who turns 58 in December.

"It was very bad for me as a young boy, but I didn't understand what was happening."

Now 25 years since the end of the apartheid - the system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa for nearly half a century - Mazwe is touring Australia with the Soweto Gospel Choir and singing songs in honour of Nelson Mandela and South Africa's struggle for freedom.

Choir master Mazwe Shabalala backstage on the Australian tour.

Choir master Mazwe Shabalala backstage on the Australian tour.

The three-time Grammy Award-winning choir was formed in 2002 and is now travelling Australia with its Freedom tour in honour of Nelson Mandela, visiting nearly 50 venues along the way.

"For me to be singing about it in this show, and talking about Nelson Mandela - 100 years after his birth - and the apartheid regime, is really a blessing," said choir master Mazwe, who is a founding member.

"It is a dream come true, to travel all over the world."

Coming from a talented musical family - his father was a comedy actor and mother was a musician - it was no surprise the former child dancer and now father-of-five found fame with the Soweto Gospel Choir 18 years ago.

"I think this is from the blood," said Mazwe. "It was my dream to be overseas. But I had to travel 600km to get to the audition.

"By the grace of God I got the money to get a ticket to Johannesburg. At the audition there were at least 2000 people and they were only looking for 18 members."

Since then Mazwe and his choir 'family' - some of the best musical talents in South Africa - have been sharing their inspiring African gospel music with audiences around the world and have performed with some of the biggest names in music.

"Stevie Wonder was a highight, and Aretha Franklin," said Mazwe. Other artists they have sung with include U2, Robert Plant, Celine Dion, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beyonce.

"We love coming to Australia, it's like home to us," said Mazwe, remembering the first time he visited the country. "It was unbelievable. The audience loved the show."

Producer Andrew Kay added that while the group continues to inspire fans worldwide, the reaction they get from Australian audiences is "unforgettable".

"The Soweto Gospel Choir members are thrilled to return to Australia," producer Andrew Kay said.

We hope that our uplifting message of hope, faith, and joy reaches audiences new and old on this special return visit as we celebrate the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela.

While in Australia the choir will be doing 48 shows. For the first half of the concert, the choir will perform Songs of the Free - a rousing program celebrating the centenary of the birth of the Nelson Mandela.

Following that, the performers will share international gospel classics including their hair-raising take on Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

Filling the stage with vibrant costumes, incredible vocals, djembe drumming and uplifting songs the dynamic choir performs both traditional and contemporary music and performs in six of South Africa's eleven official languages.

"To sustain for quite a long time on stage, we do a physical and vocal warm-up before each performance," added Mazwe.

But the music-making isn't only contained to the stage.

"When we're on tour we sing on the bus, we sing everywhere," he said.

"I eat music, sleep music. I can say it is a passion - I love music more than anything. I think it is something in my heart."

The all-states tour kicked off in Perth and will include 48 shows, finishing in Alice Springs on September 14. For tour information click HERE

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