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Feel-good gospel: The Africa-based choir blends a variety of sounds

The Soweto Gospel Choir is touring in support of its album, “Divine Decade.”

The Soweto Gospel Choir is touring in support of its album, “Divine Decade.”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Kevin Williams is going to be away from home for months – and he’s fine with it.

Williams is one of the members of the Grammy Award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir. The Africa-based choir is currently on tour in the United States in support of its new album, “Divine Decade.”

“The tour has been great and we’ve been able to see a lot of the States,” he says during a recent phone interview. “The weather is starting to warm up on the tour and it’s making for a great time to be performing.”

The Soweto Gospel Choir was formed in 2002 in Soweto, South Africa, by David Mulovhedzi and Beverly Bryer, two choir directors. The ensemble blends elements of African gospel, Negro spirituals, reggae and American popular music. The group performed at the first of a series of concerts for Nelson Mandela, and has since toured internationally several times.

“Divine Decade” opens with an address from the choir’s patron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and features numerous collaborations.


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Williams says the choir has performed with U2, Robert Plant, The Soil, Joepraize, Zahara, Elvis Blue, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Solly Mahlangu, Corlea Botha, Eric Wainaina, Johnny Clegg, Paul Ruske, and HHP.

“We’ve been blessed to have so many other artists who want to perform with us,” he says. “We tackle whichever songs are given to us by the directors. We’ll spend some time listening to the song and then we’ll put our twist on it.”

The featured tracks include the choir’s popular hits such as “Sedilaka,” Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There,” and the Fish Out of Water remix of “Put On Your Boots,” their collaboration with U2.

Williams has been with the choir for nine years and says he’s finally adjusted to life on the road. He’s often away from home for about 10 months out of the year.

“In the beginning, it’s tough because you’re not used to such a life,” he says. “After about a year of touring, you start to gravitate and grow stronger to love on the road. If you have a family, it’s more difficult, but for a single person, it’s a little easier. What this choir provides for us, is an opportunity to perform around the world and make people feel good through our music.”