Soweto Gospel Choir bids farewell to the Fringe

The Soweto Gospel Choir, who have performed annually at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, will give their last performance on the Fringe this year, the BBC reported on Monday. The reason? They have become too popular.

Since their first festival appearance in 2003, the choir have been in such demand by European audiences that they can no longer devote a month to staying in Edinburgh for the duration of the festival.

This success is in stark contrast to the initial fears that the choir faced when playing at the festival for the first time, when they worried that the European festival-goers would find their sound unusual. “Initially when we started we weren’t really sure if people would like the sound,” Sipokazi Luzipo, an alto, was quoted as saying. However, following rave reviews in the festival press, the rest of the run was sold out.

The choir run a charity for Aids orphans, and after their first success in Edinburgh, were able to donate £9 000. Subsequent tours in the last six years have allowed the choir to donate a further £1-million.

Speaking from the festival, choir master Shimmy Jiyane told the BBC, “Coming to Edinburgh helped us a lot. It is one of the best festivals in the world. When we came here we made sure we did our best and promoters saw us.”

The choir’s acclaim spreads far beyond Europe. Their albums Blessed and African Spirit earned them Grammy Awards for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2007 and 2008. Last year they also appeared at the Oscar Awards with John Legend, performing Down to Earth from the animated film Wall-E, a Best Song nomination.

Despite all this, Luzipo indicated that they would always remember the Edinburgh Fringe as the stepping stone to their international career. She said “It is a bit sad for us. It is our farewell year. I think that is why we are giving it so much passion.”

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