Religious inclusivity is a hallmark of the new South Africa and Gwynne Robins of the Board of Deputies is often asked to find a Jewish participant for an event.
As few South Africans are likely to have met a Jew outside the TV screen, our visibility as Jews is important. Fortunately, when those representatives are the Shalom Voices, their beautiful songs are guaranteed to be the highlight of the event. They willingly agreed to participate, despite the time required to choose and rehearse Jewish music.
In January they sang at the annual Baha’í faith World Religion Day whose theme this year was ‘Social justice and access to education.’ Held in the beautiful new Baha’í centre on what felt like the hottest day of the year, their performance resulted in a request by the Baha’i choir conductor for the music of one of their songs and the suggestion that the two choirs get together.
In November last year they delighted the audience at the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative’s concert — Music of the Soul — Bringing Harmony and light to the city through interfaith music. Seven faith communities participated: Islam, Khoisan, Christian, Judaism, Sikh, Buddhism (Dharma Centre) and Hindu (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). Seven different musical traditions with different instruments and melodies. From the human voice to the Buddhist gong to the indigenous Khoisan bow, from the two karatalas discs struck by the Hare Krishna devotees to the Sikh jori and saranda.
One of the most interesting performers was Collin Meyer, known as Collin the Bushman, an Attaqua bushman, who has been teaching the bow instrument to the children in his community. From the two sticks that formed the bow he produced eerie hauntingly beautiful sounds and later recited a poem about the prejudice and destruction of his heritage, which resonated with our own Jewish memories of the destruction of our European communities.
“People are blessed with many talents,” James Ellman, its chairman, pointed out, “and music and the enjoyment of music is one of them. We are each unique and each of us has the ability to effect those around us.”
Proudly Jewish in their white clothes with blue scarves the Shalom Voices choir have enhanced the events with their carefully selected songs and polished professional performance. The prolonged applause that followed on each occasion was an indication of the audience’s appreciation for the talent that had gone into it.