The Ndlovu Youth Choir is a world-renowned South African musical group that started in 2009 as an after-school activity of a childcare program founded by the Ndlovu Care Group in Limpopo’s rural heartland. The singing group has remarkably impacted the lives of its members since its formation and inspired millions worldwide by demonstrating that anyone can achieve greatness and brilliance regardless of their education, background, or location.
The Ndlovu Youth Choir started by singing at local functions and events and released renditions of various songs. In 2018 the group partnered with Grammy winner and South African flautist Wouter Kellerman in an isiZulu version of Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. The video went viral and ushered them onto the international scene, capturing a global audience and winning the Best Independent Music Video award at the Hollywood Music Awards.
Ndlovu Youth Choir Americas Got Talent (AGT)
The Ndlovu Youth Choir auditioned on the 14th season of Americas Got Talent in 2019 with the song My African Dream, which sent them into the Judge Cuts. They later performed Waka Waka by Shakira and proceeded to the quarterfinals, where they performed Beautiful Day and moved into the semi-finals. They then put on a great show with Steve Winwood’s Higher Love and moved into the finals.
The Ndlovu Youth Choir America’s Got Talent final performance saw them get a standing ovation with the song Africa, but they did not get enough votes to win the show. However, they made history as the competition’s first choir to reach the finals. The Limpopo-based singing group later signed a recording contract with Syco Entertainment in collaboration with Sony and released various studio albums, including Africa in 2019, Rise in 2020 and Grateful in 2022.
The Ndlovu Youth Choir also won the International Achievement Award in 2020 at the South African Music Awards. They also went on to undertake two European tours and perform on various local and international television and radio shows. The choir sold out every public performance, with highlights including performing for over 150,000 people in Cape Town and The Match in Africa, which featured Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Trevor Noah and Bill Gates.
Ndlovu Youth Choir Americas Got Talent 2023
On January 23rd 2023, the Ndlovu Youth Choir were back on America’s Got Talent spin-off AGT: All-Stars, selected as one of the top 60 acts of all time. The spin-off features finalists, winners and fan favourites from previous seasons of the reality talent competition show competing to win the coveted title and grand prize of $500,000.
The Ndlovu Youth Choir We Will Rise original song wowed the judges and audience with the singer’s lively energy and heart-warming vocals bringing everyone to their feet in a standing ovation. Judge Howie Mandel praised the Ndlovu Youth Choir as the most favourite choir ever to grace the ATG stage. He noted that, unlike most choirs that felt like school assemblies, the Ndlovu Youth Choir felt like a finished Broadway Show, and the performance was worthy of a golden buzzer.
However, despite winning everyone’s hearts and seemingly pleasing the judges, the singing group only made it to the top 3 of the night and failed to make it to the finals. Judge Heidi Klum, who had the power to press the golden buzzer for her favourite act, confessed to loving the Ndlovu Youth Choir’s performance but decided to give the opportunity to someone else. Fans expressed their disappointment across social media platforms, stating that the choir was more deserving of the golden buzzer and should have advanced to the finale.
Ndlovu Youth Choir Members
The choir consists of young, ambitious, talented youth who are passionate about quality music and making a positive mark in the world through their voices. The Ndlovu Youth Choir has had numerous members since it was founded in 2009, with some leaving and others joining the team. Some of the lead members include:
- Lethabo Mamphela
- Siyabonga Mahlangu
- Thabang Sikoe
- Ntombenhle Galela
- Nonhlanhla Thandazo Sono
- Lwandile Shabalala and
- Ayanda Mdluli
The Ndlovu Youth Choir members sing in all 11 South African official languages, including English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Tswana, Sepedi, Swazi, Southern Sotho, Southern Ndebele, Tsonga, and Venda. Ahead of their AGT: All-Stars audition, the members reflected on their long and difficult journey. Their humble beginnings included a lack of electricity and water back home but a simple after-school program transformed into an international recording and touring career that allowed them to support their families and manage the challenges back home.
Ndlovu Youth Choir Conductor
The conductor of the Ndlovu Youth Choir is Ralf Schmitt. He is also a co-founder of the group and a South African musician, producer and composer. Ralf started his musical career as a chorister and specialized in Jazz Vocals in his music studies. He is a renowned specialist in African choral music, and his compositions and arrangements are regularly performed and broadcast locally and abroad.
Thanks to a great passion for promoting and preserving indigenous South African music, Ralf’s fieldwork and transcriptions have resulted in the publication of two traditional music songbooks. He also worked with Shakira during the 2020 FIFA World Cup on the vocal arrangements of the official World Cup song Waka Waka.
With his guidance and dedication, the Ndlovu Youth Choir’s repertoire involves an exciting mix of traditional South African genres with rock, pop, jazz and EDM. Together they create a fresh and original sound and can take well-known songs and move them into exciting new territory.
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