Gospel Ululations

The Soweto Gospel Choir takes gospel back to the Motherland

If you're like most people, you were introduced to South African music through Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who appeared on Paul Simon's 1986 smash, Graceland. It was Mambazo that provided the harmonic rainbow that opens "Diamond's on the Soles of Her Shoes," introducing the musical style known as mbaqanga to Western ears.

Mambazo has gone on to international acclaim and in the process attracted attention to South African music, including the Soweto Gospel Choir. Formed in 2002, the acclaimed 26-member group melds traditional African and American gospel traditions, producing a sound that's powerfully earthy and ecstatically ethereal. Outtakes spoke with musical director David Mulovhedzi from his home in South Africa.

Outtakes: This is your second time in the U.S. How do audiences respond to the music?

Gospel, South African style
Gospel, South African style
"Hell yeah!"
"Hell yeah!"

Oh, we get warm welcome from Americans because really they accept our music. With songs that are very soulful, you see the audience being seated very quietly because our music is going through them, healing their hearts; it's doing wonders to them. And the standing ovation after that song is just marvelous. And we have some uptempo songs where the audience do dance around, and it's lovely.

From your album Blessed, I can hear that the choir often has instrumental accompaniment.

We sing most of the songs a cappella, but just to accompany the music, we use the African drums, and it's beautiful. When it comes to dancing, we're using those drums, we ululate, and there's lots of movement. Then we've got other songs we do with a four-piece band, a guitarist, bass, drums, and a keyboard player. Those are songs that we call the modern gospel: "Oh Happy Day," "Many Rivers to Cross" by Jimmy Cliff, "Swing Down." Some of those songs we pick from and put a little bit of an African feeling.

So this music brings people together.

Not in a religious way but spiritually. Our music is for everybody. The religious people will enjoy it, and the nonreligious people will definitely enjoy it too.

It's taken you guys around the world.

What an experience! Some of us had never been overseas before. When we started touring, we said "Whoa, this is what Australia looks like! What a country!" And after that, we had to go to Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival, and we said, "Good lord, this is Scotland!" And we gave our best performances. We've been going around — Germany, we've been back again, and the U.K., the U.S., Singapore. And most shows have been sold out. Many people really like the Soweto Gospel Choir's music, because it's nothing they've ever seen before: a gospel choir onstage dancing, ululating, and at the same time singing with all those body movements. It's something really beautiful. — Jonathan Zwickel

The Soweto Gospel Choir performs at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 31, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $29.50 or $42.50. Call 954-462-0222.

Redneck Rules

Howdy, gals. Gretchen Wilson here. Back before I was "Redneck Woman" number one, I was livin' in Pocahontas, Illinois, just tryin' to pay the bills and find myself a good man, and a friend gave me that datin' guide, The Rules. If you ask me, that book ain't never gonna snare you no man. These here are the Redneck Rules, taken from the words to my songs. Hell yeah! Now go get out the trailer, and go get 'em, girls!

Rule Number 4: If yer heart's achin' over some jackass who knocked you up, Budweiser is a universal cure-all. It'll leave you one Bud wiser and get you in the right mood to find yer kid a new daddy.

Rule Number 9: There's nothin' wrong with the Bible and sure as hell ain't nothin' wrong with a sinner who finally believes. Especially if he's still up for sinnin' with you, hell yeah! God might be politically uncorrect these days, but a man who don't believe ain't worth his Silverado.

Rule Number 17: Look for the Skoal ring, sisters. If he ain't got one, he's not for you. If he does, let him buy you a drink. It won't be long before he's makin' the trailer payments too. Hell yeah!

Rule Number 24: Men like a chick who drinks beer all night, plain and simple. Besides, who can swig that sweet champagne?

Rule Number 27: Wear yer jeans just a li'l tight, if you know what I mean. Boys come undone when they see a seam ridin' up yer ass. Hell yeah!

Rule Number 33: Victoria's Secret, well their stuff's real nice, and that's why you should let yer man buy it for you. But you can buy the same damn thing at Wal-Mart half price.

Rule Number 35: Keep in mind, I'm an eightball-shootin', double-fisted drinkin' son of a gun, but I find guys like it real nice when you get a little crazy just because you can. Mud-boggin' topless always does the trick for me.

Rule Number 41: Men like redneck women, so ignore the folks who look down at you for standin' in yer own front yard with a baby on yer hip 'cause yer man spent the grocery money on a fifth of Jack and a case of Marlboro Reds even though he damn well knows you only smoke menthols. Hell yeah! — Cole Haddon

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