07 Dec Making Magic with D’banj and the Mzansi Youth Choir

Just a few days removed from Global Citizen, and the event as already passed into the realm of the surreal. As if Beyoncé and Jay-Z were not enough to satiate the desires of the packed FNB stadium, Usher, Pharrell Williams, Ed Sheeran, Cassper Nyovest and a host of other global icons were on hand to deliver once in a lifetime performances.

D’banj was one of the performers who took up the Global Citizen call and when it came time to take the stage he did so alongside the Mzansi Youth Choir.

Interested to get the full story on this inspired collaboration, we reached out the choir’s musical director James Bassingthwaighte on how a South African choral music and D’banj’s irreverent and sometimes cheeky persona blended to create a moment of magic enjoyed by the world.

After a handful of encounters with D’banj and a years’ worth of work with the Mzansi Youth Choir, James Bassingthwaighte, a veteran of The Voice SA, Coke Studio and X-Factor, was the perfect person to bring the two entities together on stage. The brief was simple: to respect and celebrate South African heritage and fulfill the goal of collaboration. The choir itself is known for its choreography, and from the beginning it was known that it would play an integral part in the show’s execution, and mostly notably D’banj’s final song “Oliver Twist”.

An acapella arrangement of the song was bolstered by the heart and sentiment of Leleti Khumalo’s iconic Nelson Mandela inspired speech from Sarafina. The use of the national anthem – hummed by the choir – grounded the elements of the performance and perfectly brought together all of its elements

“We needed something to underscore [the speech] and the natural conclusion to that was to have the choir humming the national anthem, which gave D’banj a lot of musical space to use his harmonica.The choir humming the harmonica and the speech all worked really well together”, says James of the performance.

When asked about how he thought the choir performed given the magnitude of the event, James is hesitant to make comparisons. He chooses instead to shine a light on expectations met and exceeded. Known as a salacious and sometime provocative performer has brought D’banj to the attention of the world. To include such an emotive element was an unexpected turn, only possible through the collaboration with Mzansi Youth Choir.

With Global Citizen come and gone, it’s the memory of the experience we are left with. And through artists as talented and committed as D’banj and The Mzansi Youth Choir is no wonder that the entire event has left such an indelible mark on the nation and proved that South African talent is worthy of one of the biggest stages in the world.

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