Following last year’s knockout (and sold out) shows in Johannesburg and Cape Town, the Ndlovu Youth Choir are coming back to Montecasino’s Teatro (Friday 25 to Sunday 27 August) and Artscape in Cape Town (Friday 13 to Sunday 15 October).
We saw them at Artscape last year and thought they were up there among the best concerts we had ever seen (which includes everyone from Pavarotti to the Rolling Stones and Cher, Madonna and Tina Turner … PS I know how that dates us).
Since inception in 2009, the Ndlovu Youth Choir has become one of South Africa’s most treasured choral groups. They are also recognised globally for their standout, one-of-a-kind, make-you-wanna-laugh-and-cry song and dance performances.
Other upcoming tours for the 15 choristers, 3-piece band and conductor, composer and producer, Ralf Schmitt, include to the US, Germany and the Netherlands, including performances at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam and the Carnegie Hall Summer Festival in Bryant Park, New York.
Here is something we wrote after seeing them at Artscape in October 2022:
A very South African explosion of magic
Children start singing and dancing at an after-school activity group in a dusty rural village in Limpopo. They work hard. They go to America. They win big prizes and become a global sensation. They come home and finish school. They make everyone else’s lives better. They put on shows to inspire others to be better and happier.
True story. Much better than Goldilocks and Gang. Who says Africa is a tragic place …
The Ndlovu Youth Choir’s show at Artscape in Cape Town this weekend was nothing less than an explosion of magic. The troupe’s first South African headline tour, which included shows at Montecasino in Johannesburg, exceeded all expectations.
A singing and dancing sensation, the Ndlovu Youth Choir is also a reflection of the best of South African grit, true resilience and unbounded hope in the face of adversity.
The choir was founded in 2009 as part of the Ndlovu Care Group in Elandsdoorn in Limpopo, a childcare community programme that provides lessons and opportunities to children from a disadvantaged background.
In 2019, in what seemed like a bolt out of the blue, Ndlovu Youth Choir made the finals of America’s Got Talent. To be honest, though, their real show-stopping work has been improving the lives of others in their community, as a short video insert in the show illustrated.
More than filling one with the knowledge that ‘the kids are going to be okay’, this show reassures all the grown-ups that we are all going to be okay, that our future is safe in their hands.
“When I sing, I let go. This is prayer and my safe haven.”Thabo Maphanga,
Ndlovu Youth Choir singer
Their performance showcased a very diverse musical repertoire – from ancient tribal chants and inspirational gospel, to contemporary Afro-Pop and amapiano. Numbers by Hugh Maskela, Aretha Franklin, Adele, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper were all featured, along with some original compositions, including WeBaba Omncane and Afrika Hey from their first studio album, titled Grateful.
One particularly memorable cover version was Shallow (from A Star is Born) by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sung in isiXhosa. If that is not original, I don’t know what is.
Of the ‘truly’ original material, one especially poignant and powerful number brought us right back home. The song, about gender-based violence, reminded us that Ndlovu Youth Choir may have won a good few battles against hardship, but the war is still raging all around us.
Subtitles on stage along the lines of “My brothers, no”, “That is enough, brother”, “Father, where are you” and “You were supposed to protect us” delivered blows to heads and hearts.
The painful reality was soon washed away by the magic of the night and the story of these amazing people and their conductor, Ralf Schmitt, an inspiring and effervescent character who is clearly a pillar of support to the choir.
It is obvious that Schmitt plays an enormous supporting role but this choir is clearly about the amazingly talented Ndlovu Youth Choir members and the South African spirit of ubuntu that they embody. This true story really is an African fairytale.
Our dream is to let children around the world know, just because you’re born into poverty it doesn’t mean you are poverty.”Ndlovu Director Ralf Schmitt