Soweto Gospel Choir
On Nelson Mandela & South African Culture
I fell in love with the music and culture of South Africa years before I actually traveled to the country. But my 2-week visit back in 2000 (which included being given a Zulu name after singing with a musician in Simunye Village) changed my life, inspiring the mission now known as Green Global Travel. Needless to say, I’ve been a diehard fan of the heavenly harmonies of acts such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Soweto Gospel Choir ever since.
We submitted our request to interview the Soweto Gospel Choir in November, as soon as we heard that they’d be launching a US tour in February 2014. We were utterly shocked and dismayed when we learned of the passing of the great Nelson Mandela, just a few days before we were scheduled to speak with choirmaster/choreographer Shimmy Jiyane. Mandiba (as Mandela was affectionately known) had been a longtime fan of the group, which had performed for him many times. So it seemed only fitting that their passionate performance proved a highlight of his memorial last week.
We finally connected with Jiyane just a few days after their touching tribute to the revolutionary political and civil rights icon, discussing topics ranging from the struggles of growing up during the Apartheid era and how life in Soweto has changed since it ended, to what Mandela’s legacy means to the people of South Africa.