The Connections Zulu Choir returned from Australia last week after introducing the country to the unique sounds of South African music on a three-week tour of Australia. The choir, from Kwa Nyuswa, is made up of 20 teenagers and young adults. The tour was organised by The Oaktree Foundation, an Australian aid group run entirely by volunteers under the age of 26.
While in Australia, the choir travelled over 1,500km to perform at 20 mostly sold out concerts to around 10,000 people. As well as receiving great feedback from excited audiences, media outlets around Australia were very keen to interview the choir. Through their media appearances, the choir reached around three million people, performing live on Australia’s highest-rating breakfast television program, Sunrise and appearing in major metropolitan and regional newspapers.
They were also in hot demand by Aussie bands while they were in the country. One of the highlights of the tour was a collaboration with Evermore, one of the country’s highest-selling bands. The choir also appeared at Evermore’s Melbourne concert to sing two songs to over4,000 screaming audience members. The choir also impressed Bliss n Eso, one of Australia’s biggest hip hop groups, when they recorded tracks together for Bliss n Eso’s forthcoming album. Both Evermore and Bliss n Esso visited South Africa this week with The Oaktree Foundation and MTV, and again they worked with Connections Choir whilst in Kwa Nyuswa.
The choir met a group of young Australian musicians in early 2005 when the Aussies were on a study tour with The Oaktree Foundation, and they have shared an amazing friendship and partnership since then. They wrote and recorded a CD in 2005, and then in 2006 the Australian musicians returned to South African again and recorded a second CD with the choir. This CD was called Simunye Sound (or ‘we are one’ sound in Zulu) – and it is a mix of Australian and South African sounds and influences, including the Zulu choir, a jazz singer, a punk singer, an electric guitarist, a bass player, a percussionist, a keyboardist and a guitarist. The group of Aussie musicians joined forces with The Oaktree Foundation at bring the choir to Australia. The choir performed both by themselves and as Simunye Sound with their Australian musician friends.
Nhlanhla Jila, the leader of the Connections Zulu Choir, said the tour was an amazing experience for all the choir members. “We feel so lucky that we were given this amazing opportunity to travel to Australia and share our music with the people there. This trip was the biggest thing any of us have ever done,” he said. “We met so many wonderful people in Australia and are looking forward to keeping in touch with our new friends across the ocean. And of course we’re hoping to go back to Australia soon to do it all again!”
Olivia Brian, one of the Australian musicians the choir toured with, said it was an experience that she was proud to be a part of. “The choir touched so many people in Australia with their music and their inspirational story while they were here,” she said. “The tour was a huge success and I know many people in Australia are keen to have the choir return”.
“The choir also did a great job at promoting South African music and culture, and giving Australians a taste of South African life – I’m sure that there will be many Australians looking forward to visiting the country after seeing the choir perform!”
Connections Choir are hopeful that this will not be their first international music tour. “We feel this is very much the beginning. None of us had ever been overseas before this trip to Australia – and it was the best thing we’ve ever experienced. We hope to continue our friendship and partnership with our Australian musician friends. We want to record more CDs with them, write more music and tour again. We’re also hoping to expand our reach within South Africa – there is a lot of exciting things to come!” said Mr Jila.
For interviews, photo opportunities and media enquiries please contact:
NhlaNhla Jila, Choir Leader, on 07823110998
Olivia Brian, Oaktree Foundation volunteer, +61 410 531 436