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Soweto Gospel Choir to perform at the Riviera

Fifty-two voices strong, the Soweto Gospel Choir sings all over the world. From their home base of Soweto, South Africa, they have trekked to concerts in Europe, Singapore, Australia and the Americas, collaborating with musicians including U2’s Bono, the Eurythmics, Peter Gabriel, Jimmy Cliff, Josh Groban, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder.

Amid all this excitement, though, they have played the Buffalo area only once – two years ago, also in the Riviera Theatre. It was a happy accident – Riviera director Frank Cannata ran into someone from South Africa at a party, and way led on to way.

The choir is returning to the Riviera on Friday for what could be called an encore performance. It’s lucky for Western New York, because no other choir has what this choir has. Colorfully clad in robes and headdresses, the singers pour out spirituals, reggae, world beat, occasional pop numbers and, of course, gospel songs. Though they can have a contemporary feel, they are grounded in the traditions of their homeland. They won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album with their record “Blessed and African Spirit.”

The Soweto Gospel Choir sings at 8 p.m. Friday in the Riviera Theatre (67 Webster St., North Tonawanda). Tickets are $35-$40. For more information, call 692-2413.

– Mary Kunz Goldman