This Week in Nelson Mandela’s House Band

Soweto Gospel Choir

My favorite track on the newest CD, African Spirit, by this internationally renowned, mostly a capella people’s chorus from South Africa, Soweto Gospel Choir, is a medley of Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo,” the spiritual “This Little Light of Mine,” a Zulu folksong and the gospel hit “If You Ever Needed the Lord.” Me, I don’t particularly need the Lord, but the stubborn atheist in this foxhole takes inspiration wherever he can find it lately, and when it arrives in a multilingual, politically progressive Christian vocal ensemble spreading reconciliation and hope, I am all over it.

It’s impossible to get through a recommendation of the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir without using the adjective “inspiration,” so there it is. Of course, if you’re already a pushover for humanity, you’ll be singing along from the first call-and-response of this dancing, spinning, clapping 25-person vocal riot of joy and, yes, inspiration. Curmudgeons and misanthropes may require a few more performances from the group’s repertoire of traditional Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho gospel and folksongs; spirituals; reggae; and Ladysmith Black Mombazo (“Homeless”), Bob Dylan (“Forever Young”) and Peter Gabriel (“Biko”) covers they do gospel-style, some of which they’ve performed with the likes of Bono, whom they backed on a version of “One.” Bono probably won’t be there on Saturday night. Neither will Desmond Tutu, at whose wedding anniversary the choir performed. Or Nelson Mandela, for whom they sang “Happy Birthday” on his 75th as part of their work as ambassadors for his charitable foundation for AIDS orphans. But harmony, strength, courage, compassion and, yes, inspiration will for sure be in the house.

Soweto Gospel Choir at the Irvine Barclay Theater, 4242 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 854-4646; www.thebarclay.org. Sat., 8 p.m. $32. Sold-out.

 
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