Black South African Choir Hoping to Bring Music of Israel to Soweto

The all black Johannesburg Adult Choir is hoping to bring the music of Israel to the black township of Soweto.

The choir, comprising teachers, nurses, business people and housewives, has been invited to take part in the 16th Zimriya choral festival, to be held in Israel this month.

Against a background of violence and unrest in South Africa, particularly in the troubled townships, the singers forge friendships, provide recreation and keep people off the streets.

“We forget about politics. We speak one language — the language of music,” Stephen Tau, the choir’s secretary, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The group’s repertoire includes songs in the main black languages of South Africa: Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Shangaan and Venda.

“If possible, we’d like to rehearse the Israeli national anthem (Hatikvah) and one or two songs in Hebrew before we go,” said Samuel Magano, the conductor who founded the choir with Ernest Pooe, its president, in 1980.

Although the Johannesburg Adult Choir will perform in concerts and choir sessions, most of the tour will be devoted to workshops “where we can learn from the Israelis and take their music back to the people in Soweto, where we all live,” said Tau.

“This will, in turn, bring us closer to the Jewish community of Johannesburg, about which we know very little. We view the venture as a way to establish closer ties.”

Lack of funds for 50 airfares has been one obstacle to the choir’s tour.

This Tau attributes to the unemployment situation in South Africa. But individuals and organizations, including some from the Jewish community, have responded to appeals for sponsorship.

The visit to Israel by the choir has the approval of the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria, the Israel Government Tourist Office and support from the Transvaal Council of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

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