Bristol, Connecticut, USA- ESPN scored
some soul recently when the Soweto Gospel Choir sang and danced at its campus.
It may have been the greatest
performance ESPN has seen.
The world-famous choir, which sings
the gospel music of Africa, is collaborating with the media giant to provide
some of the music that will accompany ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 World Cup that
begins in June.
The choir gave a couple hundred ESPN
employees a taste of its music last week – part of an effort to celebrate
African culture and to convey the atmosphere of South Africa, the host country
for the World Cup.
Jed Drake, a senior vice president who
is coordinating ESPN’s World Cup coverage, called the concert at the ESPN Cafe a
Jiyane Shimmy, the choreographer and
conductor of the Soweto Gospel Choir, said of its collaboration with ESPN, “It’s
amazing. It’s good for us, for our country.”
Claude Mitchell, coordinating music
director at ESPN, said the Soweto Gospel will play a major role in the network’s
World Cup coverage.
“We’ve been working on developing
music ideas for the World Cup,” he said, that prominently include the choir.
Soweto Gospel Choir performing at ESPN.
The choir has won two Grammy Awards,
and collaborated with Peter Gabriel on the song “Down to Earth” for the Academy
Award-winning movie Wall-E.
Yet another important performance is
still to come: The choir will be singing the opening song at the World Cup.
Sipokazi Nxumalo, an alto and lead
singer in the choir, said the group tours nine months a year and members worried
they would be away during the international soccer tournament, but they are “so
excited to be home for the World Cup.”
The choir is accompanied by a
four-piece band in about 20 percent of its performances, Nxumalo said. At ESPN,
only a beat from two drums called djembes accompanied the vocals.
“We prefer the audiences to hear the
beauty of our harmonies,” she said.
The choir sings in six of South
Africa’s 11 official languages, Nxumalo said.
Being part of the choir is hard work,
according to Shimmy. It takes a whole day to choreograph a song, and that’s not
including learning the intricate harmonies that abound within their work. But
the choir isn’t complaining.
“You put a smile on someone’s face
through song,” said Nxumalo. “That, for me, that completes me.” She has been a
singer in the choir since its formation in 2002, she said.
Shimmy said he loves all his songs and
praising God through song. His favorite part about going on tour is meeting the
stars and learning from them, he said.
Nxumalo said the worst part of
touring with the choir is adjusting to the different climates in the places
where they go. They have learned to bring warm clothing and winter coats when
touring in the United States.
But even if the temperatures are cold,
the reception is warm. American audiences are the best in the world, Nxumalo
Wherever she performs, the best part
of singing in the choir is “getting to change lives through song.”
Youth Journalism International junior reporters Laquandria Fenn and Becca
Lazarus contributed to this story.