Can participation in a music program change the lives of even the world’s most disadvantaged children?
The choristers of the Ndlovu (end-LOVE-you) Youth Choir are living proof that it certainly can. This vibrant youth choral ensemble chants, harmonizes, and tip-toe-taps their way through a powerful 11-language repertoire that includes a sampling of all things South Africa. From isicathamiya (is-caht-a-MEE-ya), the a cappella genre accompanied only by body percussion, made famous by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, to ancient tribal chants, contemporary gospel, Afro-pop and Afro-jazz from the repertoires of Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba, and to uplifting choral music written for the choir.
Founded in 2009, this exuberant group has toured Southern Africa and Europe with their multi-sensorial performances to significant critical and audience acclaim. The members are selected by audition from the young people from the Ndlovu Care Group, a community program providing healthcare, early childhood education, after-school activities, and more to rural Moutse, Limpopo, South Africa. Program directors find that, because of the time commitment of the choir, as well as the values of self-discipline, self-confidence, and leadership that participation imbues, choristers have lower rates of drug use, delinquency, and teen pregnancy than their peers.
It’s about more than just staying out of trouble, though. The choir offers an early pathway to artistic and professional achievement that is so often only available to children from affluent backgrounds. It also offers a connection to the children’s ancestral roots and allows them to share those cultural roots with the world. It’s a profound gift in both directions, and one which the singers themselves say fills them with hope: for a better life and for a better world.
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