A world famous gospel choir has been performing on the South Coast
The Soweto Gospel choir put on a special performance for school children in Santa Barbara.
Commemorating South Africa’s freedom movement and the civil rights movement, the Soweto Gospel Choir performed Thursday at the Grenada Theater.
Their unique and inspirational sound of South African gospel and spirituals, are performed in a variety of languages - as well as some heartfelt renditions of songs you might know.
In the audience are hundreds of Santa Barbara’s 4th to 6th graders, attending, what is, for most, the first field trip in three years because of the pandemic.
Shimmy Jiyane, Choir Master of Soweto Gospel Choir, told KCLU that it’s been a long time coming to get back in front of live audiences.
"We had a very tough two and a half years. We never got to see our audiences and we never got to get on stage and sing and we never saw each other as a choir.
"So being here is a blessing and being alive is a blessing," he said.
"When they say music is the food for the soul - it feeds the soul, it feeds the spirit.
"Once you are down, once you are not encouraged, what do you want to hear? You want to hear something that beautiful in your ears. You want to hear something that moves your spirit, you want to hear something that makes your heart beat and beat like a rhythm and that's the music the Soweto Gospel Choir brings to the people."
The performance by the three-time Grammy winning choir, as part of UCSB’s Arts and Lecture Series, is a way to introduce the students to the history and culture of South Africa.
"We are talking about our freedom songs. We talk about where South Africa is now and where it comes from.
"From the 1976 apartheid era when people where killed, where people never had food - when people never had a chance.
"But we are also showcasing the strength of South Africa," he said.
Teacher Johanna Crop from Coldspring school has brought a group of school students to see the show.
"We want to make sure they get a good sense of culture and history, and to understand diversity and multi-culturalism.
"We are teaching them about South Africa's apartheid movement and Civil Rights movement so there's a lot of history they're coming in knowing, but also celebrating the arts," she said.
The students are captivated, as the choir perform in four different languages, but are universally understood – as the student clap along and join in when required.
"I thought it was really cool and inspiring - all the dancing and singing," one student told KCLU.
"It was amazing - how cultural it was," said another.
Another told KCLU, "I liked the music and it was really cool listening to the different languages."
For these kids, it’s an opportunity to experience some harmony…in every sense of the word.