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Ndlovu Youth ChoirThe Ndlovu Youth Choir is a group of underprivileged youth from the Ndlovu Care Group in rural Limpopo, South Africa. They received the opportunity to build a unique musical community and have gained international exposure for their talent and mission. In the face of COVID-19, they have been working to educate those in their communities about the disease through song.

The Mission of the Group

Dutch physician Dr. Hugo Tempelman established the Ndlovu Care Group in 1994, aiming to deliver proper childcare, healthcare, education, and community development for all in the local community. Dr. Tempelman later co-founded the Youth Choir in 2009, with Ralf Schmitt as co-founder and musical director. It started primarily as an after-school extracurricular opportunity and transformed into a professional, internationally-recognized choir group. The choir has continued to greatly influence the lives of its members, emphasizing that everyone has the capacity to accomplish whatever they put their mind to regardless of level of education, birthplace, or background. The choir’s positive impact has stretched around the globe. South Africa has one of the worst education systems in the world, but the choir is working to change that in a unique way. The Ndlovu Youth Choir has been working to stretch its impact to children in the most need, providing them with a safe space to both develop their musical talents while also developing strong friendships with their fellow choir members. The goal of the Ndlovu Youth Choir is to “…strive to nurture values such as self-discipline, self-confidence, tolerance, respect and leadership in our choristers.”

International Exposure

The official website of the choir “…promises to deliver an experience of infectious joy, a toe-tapping and energetic South African music…” including “…Afro-Pop classics [and] traditional South African music and original compositions irresistibly combined with mesmerizing choreography.” They have been successful in sharing such “infectious joy.” In 2018, they released a cover of Ed Sheeran’s pop hit “Shape of You” and instantly went viral. Its fame escalated upon auditioning for Season 14 of the reality TV show America’s Got Talent (AGT) and, ultimately, becoming finalists. From performing originals like “My African Dream” for their audition and doing covers of songs like Whitney Houston’s “Higher Love,” the group has consistently delivered performances that caught the attention of a wide range of audiences, from the New York Times to Billboard. Its performance in the show landed it a 2019 record deal offer with AGT judge Simon Cowell and his company Sony Music.

Spreading Awareness

The Youth Choir recently released a song titled “We’ve Got This,” hoping to raise awareness about how to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The choir sings the original in both their native language of isiZulu and English and offers useful advice about how to stay safe in the midst of this pandemic. They gleefully sing, “Don’t touch your face. Wash your hands.”

In addition to producing the song, the choir also choreographed its own dance for viewers to follow along with. Its music video was filled with bright South African cultural attire and even brighter smiles. Its song ends on a positive note, with the choir singing, “Don’t panic. Don’t spread rumors. We will beat corona.”

It may be surprising to discover that it took the choir and its managing team less than a day to complete production. Even though the choreography is original and complex and the effort to coordinate production seemingly more time-consuming, the choir has been quick and dedicated to combating COVID-19 through their music. According to Ndlovu Youth Choir’s co-founder and director Ralf Schmitt, misinformation regarding COVID-19 was prevalent in their local community. In producing “We’ve Got This,” the choir was able to spread positivity while relaying accurate advice about how to stay safest and healthiest during these challenging times.

– Aprile Bertomo
Photo: Flickr

V Unbeatable
V Unbeatable appeared on the debut episode of the 14th season of “America’s Got Talent.” The episode kicked off a summer full of heated potential, as acts competed for a $1 million prize.

The premiere episode of the season aired on May 28, 2019. It featured one of the most talented dance groups in the show’s history with an incredible backstory. V Unbeatable is an acrobatic dance group from Mumbai, India. The group consists of 28 dancers between the ages of 12 and 27. Although the group collectively shares unique talent, its members also all fight for their lives every day in the slums in India.

A slum is a squalid and overcrowded urban street or district that very poor people inhabit. The members of V Unbeatable, like many others who live in these conditions, occupy a very crowded space, very dirty and lacks proper electricity. The lead dancer of the group said that seven to 10 people often live in one room. He explained how challenging it is to live in the slums as they lack proper sanitation and clean water.

V Unbeatable Performing on America’s Got Talent

The group stumbled across “America’s Got Talent” via YouTube. Since then, the group members dreamed about making it to America in order to audition in front of the judges in the hopes of changing their lives.

“When we dance, we forget all of the tensions in our mind and we feel free,” the lead dancer informed the crowd. He continued saying, “This opportunity can change our lives, and everyone wants to succeed to give back to their families.”

The acrobatic dance group performed a routine in which the members performed flips, tossed other members into the air and performed acrobatic feats using bamboo sticks. Their performance captivated a roaring audience and ended with a standing ovation from all four of the judges.

Upon completing their dance, Gabrielle Union, an American actress, told the group, “You blew us all away.” Julianne Hough, a dancer herself, told the team she was impressed with the trust the team had in one another — a true characteristic of a family. Simon Cowell, a top tier music producer, claimed the group was one of the best dance groups in the history of the show.

Advancing to the Judge Cuts with four yeses, V Unbeatable advanced in the competition. The group said that if it was fortunate enough to win, it would use the $1 million prize toward improving the conditions in the slums back at home.

Condition of India’s Slums

While V Unbeatable succeeded in “America’s Got Talent,” many back at home would continue to struggle for survival. About 6.5 million people or 55 percent of the population of Mumbai, India live in slums. Half of the slums are non-government notified. This means the people have no security of land tenure and cannot access city services such as clean water and sanitation.

Most slums do not have toilets despite housing seven to 10 people. Residents have to use the little money they have in order to pay to use community toilets. Seventy-eight percent of the toilets lack water supply, and 58 percent do not have electricity. Seven people have died from attempting to use the toilets and contracting a disease from the insanitation or becoming injured from the ground collapsing around the area.

The population of Mumbai, India also has 50,000 people living without any form of permanent shelter and would prefer the conditions of living in slums despite the horrendous conditions.

The Keep India Beautiful (KIB) nonprofit team spent a day exploring the conditions of the slums. The organization found garbage and filth everywhere. Toilets and showers had little if any water supply with zero privacy and schools had no water or electricity. People were using the public park as a dump yard while many people caused cramped conditions in the houses.

The people of Mumbai, India will be praying as V Unbeatable continues on “America’s Got Talent.” Despite living difficult lives, the dance group has provided hope and a potential support system for people struggling for survival.

– Aaron Templin
Photo: Flickr