South Africa’s first gay choir sing with pride

The “Mzansi Gay Choir” is South Africa’s very first all gay musical ensemble consisting of 20 young men who represent the diverse, creative and musical side of the country’s gay culture and community. Founded last year, the choir has gained significant support and following for spreading positivity and entertainment while addressing various social injustices against the LGBT community.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (RECENT) (REUTERS) – Members of South Africa’s Mzansi Gay Choir – the first of its kind in Africa, rehearse at their studio in Johannesburg.

The choir was founded last year to stand up against violence and stigma towards the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community in the country.

South Africa’s constitution outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation and it is also the only country in Africa to legalise same-sex marriage, but activists say there is a lot of work to be done to change the perceptions of individuals and some groups.

“The whole reason why Mzansi Gay Choir exists is, like to act against everything that is against us, but not to attack them physically but vocally and inspirationally so that you know what, let us not fight about this let us just make peace, let’s be who we are, be who are straight, gay, queer, be who you are really and let us be who we are,” said the choir’s assistant manager, Matthews Motsoeneng.

“People are going to say things, people are always going to say things, so dealing with the stigma and everything like that it’s really up to you. It does get to you but sometimes you just have to channel all of the love and the energy you are surrounded by and that you have for yourself, and just forget everything else that everyone says,” said choir member, Sihle Mazibuko.

The choir of 20 gay men recently marked their first anniversary with a performance at South Africa’s Feather Awards, an annual ceremony organised to celebrate the LGBT community.

Their set included Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” – an anthem for empowerment of the gay community worldwide.

Speaking from the awards’ ‘pink carpet’, members said the choir is a necessary voice of hope for LGBT people around the world.

“We formed the Mzansi gay choir, we found 20 voices that through music and actually write to us, write us out of our misery and the problems that we share within our communities, and also you know write us to the future, you know sing us to a place of and get us to where we want to be,” one of the choir’s co-founders, Thami Kotlolo said.

The concept for the choir came to life when award winning South African musician and actress Kelly Khumalo made a nationwide call for gay male singers for a show.

“I mean they are the first gay choir to come out openly and be proud. So for me, I think they’re taking it very far,” said Khumalo.

“To have a powerful gay choir is so refreshing. To have them perform with your legendary singers like Kelly Khumalo and it’s very well received,” said Aaron Moloisi, an actor.

Choir leaders say they want to see the choir travel across the continent spreading the message of ‘pride’.

African countries have some of the most prohibitive laws against homosexuality in the world – same-sex relationships are a crime across much of the continent and can lead to imprisonment or the death penalty.