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Soweto shines with African gospel choir

Show includes tribute to Civil Rights activist Nelson Mandela

1/30/2014, 9 a.m.
Relive the life and times of civil rights activist Nelson Mandela through a moving musical tribute by African gospel choir ...

Now, you can relive the life of Nelson Mandela theatrically, through music.

African gospel choir Soweto, takes you on a sweet, soulful tribute of the civil rights activist life through the month of February at the Adrienne Arsht Center.

Soweto, the 24-member choir will bring their signature melody of African gospel, reggae vibes and American pop music to scheduled performances.

SOWETO Talks Mandela, Black Pride

The group's choir director, Beverly Bryer, whose performed for Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and more, admits her fondest Mandela-themed moment involved performing for him.

"Performing for Mandela along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu was like a dream for us," said Bryer.

"These were some of the most memorable times in our career," she explained. "We've sung at family celebrations for both Madiba and the Arch, and there is no greater feeling than when these great men have thanked us and praised our performances. Both are icons who have made South Africa what it is today and we feel so honored to have met them."

Bryer, a self-proclaimed world traveller, said its important for Blacks in Miami to appreciate African music because its reflective of their past.

"African-Americans originated from Africa, so by appreciating African music, they are appreciating their roots," said Bryer.

Eclectic Sound

If you ask Bryer to define Soweto's music she'll tell you its a hybrid of past and contemporary elements.

"Our sound has been passed down to us through generations from our grandparents," said Bryer. "We take that basic sound and then add our own unique style to it."

"We don't want to sing songs the same as anyone else," said Bryer. "So we always try to do our own arrangements to give well-known and other classics a special interpretation."

As far as originality, Soweto's tracks definitely stand out. A typical Soweto song is reminiscent of traditional Black gospel music. It's soulful, dramatic and spiritually speaks to you. The religious theme of their songs, said Bryer whose performed with Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder, is an organic aspect of their lives.

"We all come from a gospel background and are religious so African gospel is important to us," said Bryer. "Even the act of incorporating a gospel sound into contemporary classics is important to us. This is what we're known for and love best."

Global Activism

The funky band also has a charitable heart.

Soweto is active in humanitarian causes, serving as United Nation Envoys for Africa and as ambassadors for Nelson Mandela’s 46667 social justice campaign.

"There is a huge AIDS pandemic in our country and it's important to let people know about the suffering and to help our countrymen in whatever way we can," said Bryer. "By being ambassadors, we are trying to give back to others in our community which is relevant to us."

Soweto is scheduled to release their sixth album, Divine Decade on January 28 in commemoration of their decade anniversary.