Old Concert Review – South African Gospel Singers – Lichfield Garrick Theatre – 29th November 2003

The South African Gospel Choir gave a rousing show of South African music when they bought their ‘Rainbow People’ tour to the stage at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre on November 29th.

The multi-national fifteen piece band (10 singers and 5 instrumentalists) filled the stage at the theatre. The band, led by Alto singer Pinise Saul drew on a repertoire of Xhosa, Suthu and Zulu music for the concert. The five musicians in the band provided the backbone, while the choir filled in the vocals. 4 Alto Vocalists, 2 Sopranos, 2 tenors, and 2 bass voices formed the group, which sang for well over two hours.

The sympathetic backing of musical director Lucky Ranku on Guitar, pianist and Hammond Organist Mervyn Africa, bassist Sami El Salahi, and a two piece rhythm section of drums and percussion rocked and swung but also provided quieter and more delicate music as and when the song dictated.

Songs such as Pinise Saul’s and Lucky Ranku’s ‘Moriva’ and ‘Neiba River gave startling singer Prudence Dineo Mampe the chance to show of her vocal prowess. The traditional African songs such as ‘Bawo’ and ‘Somandla’ relied much more heavily on the interaction of all of the singers to provide the rich, choral tradition that forms much of the dynamic of the music.

The concert did not really provide much in the way of unaccompanied singing. The band didn’t intrude upon the delicacy of the singing. Much of the credit of this must go to musical director Lucky Ranku, who during his own solos, bought a bluesy BB King like sound to his solos, which were supported  by the jazzy chordal inflections of Mervyn Africa’s Piano and Hammond B3 organ playing.

During the instrumental interludes of the songs, the singers danced and encouraged the audience to join in, which culminated in a small but enthusiastic conga dance around the theatre by six individuals.

After the last song, which reprised with the choir wishing the audience a happy Christmas, the band left the stage to rapturous applause.

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