Ndlovu Youth Choir keeps flying the South African flag high. After wowing audiences around the globe with their proudly South African interpretations of some of the world’s biggest hits on America’s Got Talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir have released a new album with even more amazing renditions. The choir ha become a symbol of hope and pride for South Africans and we get up close and personal with Ralf Schmitt, the choir’s artistic director, as we celebrate their massive impact.
Your journey on America’s Got Talent was so incredible to watch. Why do you think so many Americans identified with your Proudly South African sound?
I think that they identified with more than the sound. They identified with the joy in the kids’ faces when they performed. The thing about us being South Africans is that we have this energy and this infectious enthusiasm when they watch us perform so that played a big role. Also, our proudly South African adaptations of some of these big hits was something the world hadn’t seen before.
What was the biggest lesson you learned through your experience on AGT?
I think the biggest lesson we learned on our journey is excellence. I remember speaking to the kids and I reminded them to take a look at all of the excellence taking place here. Look at the processes involved in achieving these excellences and apply them to your life – be it schooling or life at home and I hope that the level of excellence and professionalism that we experienced is something they all take home.
The response back home was phenomenal. What was it like seeing just how much South Africa supported you?
It was amazing! We never in our wildest dreams expected that much support. I remember arriving back at OR Tambo International Airport and seeing the policemen standing outside the plane waiting for us to get off which was odd. We then walked out and thousands of people packed out the arrivals hall which was so special. While we were in America, we were inundated with messages and it was special to see how South Africa got together and support us in the arts.
You inked a record deal with Sony Music shortly after returning home and dropped your debut album ‘Africa’ shortly after that. How does the group decide on the spin it puts on its covers?
First, the song has to have enough space for us. There needs to be some gaps in the track for us to add our spice so, naturally, some tracks work and some don’t but we’ve got our sound and we’re really proud of it. We also try very hard to incorporate different genres of South African music into the songs that weren’t originally created by a South African artist.
Your cover of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape Of You’ is on the album. Talk to us about the lyrical content you added to the cover.
That was a really cool project because that song initially launched our choir. We released the song in September 2018 and before then, no one had really heard about us. Most of the lyrics are a direct translation into IsiZulu but the song lends itself into the Zulu interpretation because you have that Caribbean sound to it. It was a natural song for us to explore and give our own spin to it.
It’s clear that music is a powerful tool and is able to unify a nation. How do you hope your music impacts South Africans and the country as a whole?
Music is the most wonderful medium for us to express ourselves as South Africans and to see young people travelling across the world and performing at such a high standard on America’s Got Talent is inspiring in itself and reminds us as a nation how much we have going for us. We often doubt ourselves but we shouldn’t because we’re an incredible nation. Here are young kids from rural Limpopo who went on to do great things and we want to continue to inspire young South Africans.
2019 was an incredible year for you but what do you have up your sleeve for 2020?
We have a lot up our sleeve! We’re back in the studio recording some new content for our next album which we plan on dropping towards the end of the year. We will also be releasing some new videos over the next few months and we have a new advertising campaign we are really proud of.