Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ceremony to acknowledge the award of a Grammy to the Soweto Gospel Choir, Market Theatre Complex, Johannesburg
Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa,
CEO of the Market Theatre, Mr Ismail Mahomed,
Deputy Chairperson of the Market Theatre, Ms Nalini Maharaj,
Ladies and gentlemen,
And our most special guests of all, the Soweto Gospel Choir, who have just scooped their third Grammy Award.
I'd like to apologise for being delayed- I called ahead to find out what everyone was wearing and when I was told everyone is so colourful I decided to change out of my suit! I want to tell you about this shirt I'm wearing. I actually designed it myself!
Soweto Gospel Choir, I want to congratulate you, many times over - and thank you for becoming as successful as you are.
Although this is not your first achievement at the Grammy Awards, and certainly not your last, we thought it was important that we hold this event today to see you, to honour you, to celebrate you your win, and to remind you of just how immensely proud we are of you.
It is not without reason that you are called the Soweto Gospel Choir and that the gospel is called ‘the good news.' You have truly brought home good news and lifted us up and reminded us of everything that is good in our country.
The Soweto Gospel choir is one of South Africa’s and Africa’s finest exports. We have many exports: our gold, our wine, our cars - but you are certainly the most colourful and our most active export.
Your name reverberates around the world and represent the best SA has to give to the world. You are dynamic, most valuable, outstanding and most beautiful and handsome! You also represent our unique Africanness.
I had the extraordinary pleasure of listening to the choir perform in Cape Town last week at the global conference of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Wow, what a moment, and what an impression you made on the people representing more than 33 countries.
You should always remember you are also a tourist attraction and in the process help to grow our economy. I am certain that it was an unforgettable experience for the 2,000 CEOs from across the world that were in attendance.
Thank you for entertaining us and for making such a lasting impression on our international guests.
We have a strong tradition of gospel music in this country.
Its power to stir the emotions and senses, to uplift and to inspire cuts across boundaries of race, class and even faith.
It is a unique and inspirational medium you also have in your hearts and hands and this has no doubt contributed greatly towards your success, because at heart we are a deeply spiritual people.
Earlier this year Brand South Africa launched a campaign called Play Your Part, to bring all South Africans on board to contribute towards making a positive change in our society.
Today we are recognising the Soweto Gospel Choir for their outstanding ambassadorship in the music industry; not just at home but beyond our shores as well.
With your rich compositions you are indeed playing your part as Brand SA extolls us to do.
In the countless lives you have touched with your music, you appeal to the higher matters of the human spirit, and to the universal values that bind us together.
The sounds of Bra Hugh Masekela, of Miriam Makeba, of Thandi Klaasen, of Savuka, of Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, of Dolly Rathebe, of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and countless others, were the soundtrack to a generation.
In many ways, the mission of their time was to chronicle the pain and brutality of apartheid and the aspirations of our people.
Their music played a key role in drawing international attention to our plight and encouraging our people to continue the fight for justice and freedom.
While you are a continuation of this lineage - you have it in your blood and your DNA - you have to forge your own mission.
Especially at this time when we are in an age of renewal we want you to take forward the tradition bequeathed to you and be advocates for us.
What you are called upon to do is to be voice of a new generation of young South Africans.
Tell the story of our people and of their liberation but also their stories into the future.
Speak to their hopes and fears and aspirations.
Give comfort and hope where there may be hardship.
Provide inspiration where there may be doubt.
Be our emissaries for reconciliation, for peace, for renewal and for prosperity.
As the ancient Greek philosopher Plato is quoted as saying:
“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything.”
Soweto Gospel Choir, you do indeed give us life. You are indeed what gives us life.
May your star shine bright. We'd like you to shine brighter than all the other stars in the galaxy.
May you bring home more Grammys!
I was so so impressed to learn you were nominated for an Oscar. We know how rigorous the process is. We also know that this makes you far more than ordinary and into the realm of the extraordinary.
You have the wind at your backs, and you carry the best wishes of the people of South Africa.
May you continue to do your nation proud.
I thank you.