Ndlovu Youth Choir continues its meteoric ascent on the current season of America’s Got Talent. The choir act hails from South Africa, and have repeatedly wowed judges and audiences with their powerhouse vocals and mesmerizing choreography.
Notoriously fickle judge Simon Cowell said that if he could, he would bottle up the act’s energy and drink it. For those curious as to how the Ndlovu Youth Choir got started, and how they managed to rise to international fame and become fan favorites, you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s what you need to know about Ndlovu Youth Choir…
1. Ndlovu Youth Choir Was Founded as An After-School Activity In 2009
According to their official website, the Ndlovu Youth Choir started as an after-school activity for South African students. “Since its inception in 2009, the Ndlovu Youth Choir has profoundly affected the lives of the choristers and demonstrates the potential of any human being to achieve excellence no matter their background, education or place of birth,” the site reads. “From its humble beginnings as an after-school activity the choir has evolved into a truly outstanding professional ensemble.”
The Ndlovu Youth Choir is part of the larger Ndlovu Care Group, which is a childcare community program that provides lessons and opportunities to children from a disadvantaged background. Their musical repertoire includes ancient tribal chants, inspirational gospel, contemporary Afro-Pop and jazz by globally renowned South African artists. Recently, the Ndlovu Youth Choir has also begun implementing original songs.
In additional to their musical tutelage, the Ndlovu Youth Choir aims to give young people the tools they need to flourish in society. “We aim to create a place of comfort and care and strive to nurture values such as self-discipline, self-confidence, tolerance, respect and leadership in our choristers,” they write.
2. They Rose to Fame With a 2018 Cover of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’
Ndlovu Youth Choir gained international attention when posted a cover of the Ed Sheeran track “Shape of You” in 2018. The cover landed millions of hits, and they even filmed a music video with South African flautist Wouter Kellerman. The attention enabled them to land an audition on America’s Got Talent, and since then, the act has been one of the show’s undisputed highlights.
Ndlovu Youth Choir auditioned with a cover of the 2010 World Cup song, “Waka Waka,” and the judges were hooked. “We don’t see choirs like you! I mean you guys dance, you sing… what you represent is unity and collectiveness,” the panel said. “Art and music are the greatest ambassadors for any country and you guys… it’s an amazing thing. Your energy, everything that you represent – pure magic.”
During their second AGT appearance, Ndlovu Youth Choir performed an original song titled “My African Dream.” The performance earned similarly enthusiastic feedback from the judges. “We’ve always been waiting for a choir like this, something we’ve never heard before,” Cowell said. “And your energy was literally bouncing off me right there. It was a great audition and you I’m going to remember.”
3. Ndlovu Director Ralf Schmitt Says Their Goal Is to ‘Express Hope’ to Children Everywhere
Ralf Schmitt is the director of the Ndlovu Youth Choir, and he admits that their success has exceeded anything he could’ve dreamed of. “We thought there would be a few people from around the world that will see it, and maybe a few of our friends and one or two people in South Africa would be interested,” he told Channel 24. “But we never envisioned the overwhelming, incredible support that we received.”
“We have received the most amazing messages of encouragement. One of the most beautiful ones was when someone said, ‘South Africa needs another 2010, and this is it’,” he recalled. Prior to Ndlovu’s performace of “My African Dream,” Schmitt explained the meaning of the song and what the act hope to achieve with their music. “The piece expresses hopes and dreams,” he explained. “And our dream is to let children around the world know, just because you’re born into poverty it doesn’t mean you are poverty.”
Schmitt’s sentiment was echoed by one of the Ndlovu singers, Thulisile . “For us, truly it’s about representing the country and letting people know what we do,” she added. “If we could just spread joy, and a message of hope, and be the voice for the young people who do not believe that they can make it, then that’s enough for us.”
4. Ndlovu Youth Choir Members Range In Age from 13 to 27
There are over a dozen members of the Ndlovu Youth Choir, and they range in age from teenagers to adults. Thabo Maphanga is one of the lead singers, and he told the Sunday Times that he never expected music to be more than a hobby. “It looks glamorous now, but things haven’t been easy for my single mother who was supporting me,” he admitted.
“I was expected to be working and pursuing a more promising career. I needed a job and I don’t blame her for putting pressure on me,” Maphanga continued. “When I sing, I let go. This is prayer and my safe haven. I can’t help it.” Elsewhere, Mapahanga talked about their success and how it should be an inspiration for other South African kids. “To the youth, if you want something, then just focus on that,” he advised. “Never mind what people say about your dream because people will discourage you. Just focus and fight for what you want.”
Another member, Rachel Ntobeng, said that singing was a way for her to pay homage to her late father, who encouraged her join the church choir. She also said that Ndlovu’s newfound fame have made them “beacons” in their village. “My life has changed. People in our area didn’t take us seriously before this all happened,” she revealed. “We were the loud kids who looked bored, but now they want to be us.”
5. Ndlovu Founder Hugo Tempelman Says Their Success on ‘AGT’ Is ‘Only the Start’
Ndlovu continue to stand as a fan favorite on America’s Got Talent, and Ndlovu founder Hugo Tempelman has been vocal in his praise. “The choir started in 2009. It was started as a healing programme, and we wanted to take it further and see if we could make it a job creation programme, and here we are today on an international stage,” he said. “And they have exceeded all of our expectations. It’s only the start.”
Dipuo Majola, a village resident in their native, told the Sunday Times that Ndlovu has lifted the spirits of the people. “We didn’t think this dust could produce such talents,” he explained. “I’m sure they will bring change to the community, they are our future.”