Africa Sings!!! is a special, month-long series that celebrates the rich legacy of Africa’s World Music. Amongst the exciting categories that we will feature are Afro-beat, Afro-pop, Afro-folk, soukous, gospel, reggae, and traditional. All will be presented through the works (CDs and live) of some of the foremost legendary and emerging African artists of this genre.
Last week, we reviewed the showstopping concert of the First Lady of World Music, Angelique Kidjo at Carnegie Hall. We also reviewed the phenomenal new CD “Day by Day”(Mercer Records, 2008) by the reigning king of Afro-beat/Afro-pop, Femi Kuti. The last prophetic cut on this CD is titled “Let’s Make History,” and we did last week by voting for President-elect Barack Obama. The must-have CD will be released in the USA on November 18.Like we said last week, it’s fiercer than fierce and hotter than hot, so please pick it up.
The tradition of Africa’s rich musical heritage continues this week
with the internationally acclaimed, two-time Grammy Award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir of South Africa, who will be in concert at several venues throughout New York City next week. In addition, they also have a glorious new album, “Soweto Gospel Choir Live at the Nelson Mandela Theatre” (Shanachie Records, 2008), which was recently released. However, as we focus on South Africa, it is with deep sad- ness that we acknowledge the passing of the South African trailblazing icon Ms. Miriam Makeba, who is affectionately known as “Mama Africa.” She died of an apparent heart attack early on Monday morning at the age of 76. According to an announcement by Mayor Francesco Nuzzo of Castel Volturno, where she was performing, the great artiste/social activist, who fought against apartheid, died after a concert she did “in solidarity for six immigrants from Ghana who were shot to death in September in the town. Investigators have blamed the attack on the Naples-area Mafia.” We mourn this great loss and celebrate the great legacy of South African music that Ms. Makeba has shared and left for the world. The impetus for the Africa Sings!!! theme comes from Ms. Makeba’s protegee, the Beninese artiste Angelique Kidjo, following her Carnegie Hall concert when she made this prophetic statement: “I feel we are living in a special time in history when people are ready to open their hearts to the beauty of African culture through its musical heritage.” From its inception in 2002 when the South African executive producer Beverly Bryer and the brilliant musical director David Mulovhedzi held auditions in Soweto to this historical period in our history, the Choir has achieved so many blessings that only the mighty arm of God could have orchestrated them, including two Grammy Awards, two No.1 Billboard World Music Chart albums, as well as collaborations in concert or in the studio with Bono, Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel, and Celine Dione. In addition, the Choir has raised over $1 million for their charity, Nkosi’s Haven, a center which provides care for families victimized by AIDS.
Their latest CD and DVD, “Live at the Nelson Mandela Theatre,” is yet another triumphant blessing. The Choir’s inimitable music and unique voices are transcendent, traveling boundlessly through exhausted bodies to uplift the soul. Their rich and powerful repertoire of spiritual songs that fuse traditional South African music with European religious music is healing, and along with the spirited dancing that has always been a part of African church worship, this 21 track CD is superbly divine. Every single number is out of this world, including “Aveulekile Amasab go/One Love,” “Sisazoyivuma Le Ngoma” and “River Jordan,” the latter which was on replay in homes and cars over the last few weeks of the presidential campaign, energizing the universe and guiding the spirit to higher heights.
Under the brilliant direction of the musical genius David Mulovhedzi, the mesmerizing 26-member choir, comprised of the top talent from various churches in and around Soweto, continues their 48-city North American tour, which runs through the holiday season. In New York, they will appear at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, 154 West 57th Street, on Sunday, November 16 at 1 p.m. Part of the Carnegie Hall Family Concerts, which encourage families to experience music together, the hour-long, weekend afternoon performance is recommended for children ages 5 to 12. The Soweto Gospel Choir event will answer the big musical question: How does the gospel music genre convey the spirit of Africa? The series will commence at noon, with storytelling and fun led by Charlotte Blake Alston. Tickets are $9 (per ticket) and may be purchased by calling CarnegieCharge at (212) 247-7800 or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website, www.carnegiehall.org. The Soweto Gospel Choir will then head uptown to Harlem for the Carnegie Hall Neighborhood series of free concerts.
On Tuesday, November 18, at 6:30 p.m., they will perform at Harlem Stage, 150 Convent Avenue at 135th Street, where audiences, along with the group Community Sings, will get a chance to join together and sing with the choir. To attend, it is necessary to RSVP at (212) 281-9240.On Wednesday, November 19 at 7:30 p.m., the Choir will perform at the Harlem Stage at Aaron Davis Hall at the City College of NY on Convent Avenue, between 133rd and 135th streets. The RSVP number is (212) 281-9240. Glory, hallelujah! Yes, God will visit New York City, but He will stay uptown when the Soweto Gospel Choir comes to Harlem. And all will be well with the world.