It’s always magical seeing two musical greats come together to create music and when it’s proudly South African, it’s just that much sweeter! Kurt Darren and the Soweto Gospel Choir have been champions of South African music for years and now, they’re coming together to celebrate our heritage and culture with a new collaborative album ‘The South African Songbook’.

The album sees the acts come together for a remarkable 13 song cycle that’s as unique as it is warm-hearted and all-embracing. In the intention of its creators, ‘The South African Songbook’ is nothing less than a sonic love letter to the best of South African artistry. It is one that is carried by heartfelt recordings that invigorate the original songs with a distinctive style, drawn from Darren’s buoyant pop and Soweto Gospel Choir’s transcendent and exhilarating voices.

“These songs represent a great scope of iconic songs to come out of South Africa,” says Kurt Darren while Soweto Gospel Choir’s Gugu Mbongwa describes the album as enhancing “our understanding of our diversity and culture, and bringing it together.” ‘The South African Songbook’ will be released on July 17th, on the eve of Mandela Day–a fitting date that recalls the first time Darren and Soweto Gospel Choir performed together when they both joined Eddy Grantfor a rousing version of his anthemic “Gimme Hope Jo’Anna” at the 46664 concert in London’s Hyde Park in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday.

Indeed, ‘The South African Songbook’ carries the spirit of hope and togetherness that defined that concert –two things that have become increasingly important as the world collectively attempts to find ways of dealing with the current pandemic. “The repertoire on this album has been built around songs of hope,” affirms Soweto Gospel Choir’s Nertia Mofokeng. “And when the pandemic comes to an end, they will be songs of victory as we celebrate the battle won with the world and a new time of living in harmony with our loved ones.”

Kurt adds “When I met Madiba before the concert, I was struck by the human connection that he took such care to make with me. I will also never forget how the choir took me under their wing for that performance, bringing to life the connections between South Africa’s diverse cultures and musical styles with such grace. I am proud that this album reflects a coming together by all of this country’s amazing people. It’s an album that makes you feel good, deep in your gut, no matter what your background -and that is something that I always try to achieve with my music. And what an honour to be captured on record with such a celebrated group of singers whose voices move me in almost indescribable ways.”

With some of the recording done in the iconic M5 studio in Johannesburg’s Auckland Park, the music on The South African Songbook has a warm, authentic feel. This is especially audible on the rendition of Mango Groove’s ‘Special Star” which features Mduduzi Magwaza –the song’s co-writer and original player -on pennywhistle. The album’s other standouts area moving version of Solomon Linda’s “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, a poignant delivery of Bright Blue’s eighties protest song “Weeping”, an irresistible and dance-worthy take on Miriam Makeba’s “Pata Pata”, and an inspiring version of PJ Powers’ anthem “Jabulani”.

Two of the emotional highpoints on the album are Juluka’s “Impi” –all the more affecting following the death of co-founder Johnny Clegg – and the traditional,“Shosholoza”. The latter featured on Soweto Gospel Choir’s African Spirit, which earned the group their second Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2007, following their first a year earlier for ‘Blessed’.

Fans of Darren’s signature sound will be thrilled to see the inclusion of his enduring hit, “Loslappie” as well as a lovely take on Koos du Plessis’ “Kinders van die Wind” while “Gebed” (the only three songs not featuring the choir) spotlights Darren’s evergreen pop voice and closes the album on a reflective note.

‘The South African Songbook’ drops everywhere on 17 July 2020.

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