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Grammys 2019: 5 things you should know about Soweto Gospel Choir, the South African group that beat Seun Kuti


Five groups got nominated in the ‘Best World Music Album’ category for the 61st annual Grammy awards in 2018.

Afrobeat artist Seun Kuti and his Egypt 80 band got recognised for his latest studio album, ”Black Times,” along with South Africa‘s Soweto Gospel Choir, Bombino from Niger, Mali‘s Fatoumata Diawara and Soviet‘s Yiddish Glory.

On February 10, 2019, the only Nigerian act and son of late Fela Anikulapo Kuti lost out to the South African group who won for their album, “Freedom.”

Here is what you should know about the South African group that beat Seun Kuti:

Origin story

In 2002, 43 of the most talented choristers from churches in Soweto came together to form a group. Together, the group performs songs in English and five of the 11 official South African languages.

The choir, directed by Beverly Bryer, delivers powerful performances in bright costumes accompanied by energetic dancing.


The gospel choir released its first album, ‘Voices of Heaven,’ on June 7, 2005. It made its way to the top of Billboard Magazine‘s World Music chart three weeks after its release in the United States.

Since then, the group has produced four award-winning albums - Blessed (2005), African Spirit (2006), Grace (2010), and Freedom (2018).


The group has performed at the 46664 concerts for Nelson Mandela. They have also played at the Carnegie Hall in New York, the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Festival Hall in London.

Other appearances include the FIFA opening concert in Soweto in 2010, the 75th and 80th birthday celebrations for the choir’s patron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

They recently performed with Beyoncé in her Zulu rendition of “Halo” at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 concert in December 2018.

Apart from the popular American singer-songwriter, the group has also performed with Céline Dion, Mariah Carey, gospel music legends - Bebe Winans and Kirk Franklin.

Grammy nominations

South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir has been nominated five times for the prestigious award.

Grammy wins/awards

Their first Grammy win was in 2007 for the “Best Traditional World Music Album.” The group won the same award in 2008.

The group just got its third Grammy award for their album, “Freedom.” They won in the ‘Best World Music Album’ category.

Other than the Grammys, they have also earned a Helpmann Award (Australia), an American Gospel Music Award, a Gospel Music Award (United States) and one Emmy.



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