Soweto Gospel Choir – Hope @ The Fantail at Gluttony, Adelaide 18/3/2023

They say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but I think for an hour on the last Saturday of the 2023 Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Fantail at Gluttony earned that title while The Soweto Gospel Choir delivered their incredible performance. Despite the oppressive heat of the blistering 2 o’clock sun frying the majority of the audience seated in the shade less venue, the atmosphere and energy was electric.

Forming in the township of Soweto, Johannesburg South Africa by members from various churches in the region, the Soweto Gospel Choir has been touring Australia with their uplifting powerful African Gospel music and for me it was the perfect opportunity to finally see this special genre in action as one of my many bucket list items. The performance started with an almighty boom of drums as members entered the stage in their colourful costumes dancing and shuffling their feet as the beat intensified. Choir Master Shimmy Jiyane introduced himself and the ensemble, stating that they use six of their eleven languages in their songs and while we may not understand the words, we will understand the feeling, and he wasn’t wrong.

The set was a mix of traditional songs such as opening song Nonkonyane Kandaba and Mbayi Mbayi which in traditional language is about the 1976 Soweto uprising, and African American civil rights songs such as Heaven help us all and Change gonna come. The various dynamics of dance, movement and acapella harmony performed by members was hypnotic and deeply moving while the solo dancers and singers moved fiercely, their powerful voices propelling through the air. Finishing the performance with Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah the whole crowd were singing along before the Choir received a standing ovation.

Happy, fun, emotive and powerful, the choir delivered their performance flawlessly lifting the hot sweaty crowd to a euphoric and energised mood and it was exactly how I imagined a Gospel Choir performance to feel.

Fringe Review By Bec Scheucher

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