The Soweto Gospel Choir

Blessed [Shanachie 18 Tracks]

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They may be the best-known exponents of South African gospel, but on this disc the Soweto Gospel Choir move outside their usual boundaries to present a program of both religious and secular music. The choice of songs is interesting, ranging from an abridged "Biko" to the standard "I Bid You Goodnight" and "Mbube" -- better known as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." That's mixed with plenty of gospel, showcasing the glorious Zulu harmonies, although in a couple of instances the sound veers much closer to American gospel, which seems a shame since their own style is so good. Think of this as a showcase of their range and talents more than anything else. There's plenty of joy and excitement in the singing, as well as the kind of sweetness that can't be taught. While this might be an attempt to win a broader audience outside their homeland (they even do a version of the South African National Anthem), and they do perform the very recognizable secular material well, you have to wonder why they felt it necessary to include it. Still, regardless of the style, there's no denying the fact that they're uplifting.

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