What a joy. Soweto Melodic Voices are a talented and inspiring group of young people who will fill you with emotion and wonder.
The group’s motto is ‘we sing when we’re happy and we sing when we’re sad,’ and with that they take us on a beautiful journey through spiritual gospel moments to raucous dance numbers. Yet no matter what the song, every single member of the choir is smiling and engaging, led by an equally beaming Neria Tselane Madikane. For me, the concert could have dispensed with the introduction and Madikane’s initial address preaching peace, as the music itself is so effective it needs no introduction. The programme contains enough information to appreciate what an impressive group they are, joined by musicians from the ages of 15 to 30. Most are from disadvantaged families, with the choir giving them a chance to enrich their lives and help with their education. Their love of music is clear from their smiles, their dancing and the passion in their voices.
The show starts with cacophonous laughter, stamping, whistling and screaming, as boys dressed in feathers and leopard skins fight with sticks on stage. They are soon joined by drummers, pounding their drums with amazing energy, building the scene as girls dance on stage until beautiful harmonies are filling the church. Their dynamics throughout were controlled and effective - they often held back with reduced numbers or soft singing in order to make their full sound all the more dramatic.
There were occasional tuning issues, but the exuberance of the singers almost rendered these moments meaningless. The soloist from ‘Come Follow Me’ delivered a beautiful and tender solo with impressive restraint from the rest of the choir as she softly lilted between the notes. However, the true knockout performance was from the soloist in ‘Ndimi Ndodwa’. She could belt out her notes and do all manner of vocal tricks, loud and soft, without any form of amplification.
The different costumes, dances, rhythms and sounds produced by the choir created a truly inspiring show celebrating Soweto life. As they usher the audience out with their encore song, the choir pass on their warmth and enthusiasm. Soweto Melodic Voices left me with a smile on my face for the rest of the day.