By Cynthia Akande
Sometimes in May 2023, on a stage more than 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) away from Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Mzansi Youth Choir saw their dreams coming true before their eyes.
The Youth Choir had auditioned at ‘America’s Got Talent’ (AGT) and the young group received the first-ever audience-awarded ‘golden buzzer,’ sending them straight to the live shows of the popular NBC talent competition.
That was at the end of May. Ever since, the choir has been back in South Africa preparing for the next step of their journey.
“Coming to the US to perform on the world’s biggest stage, ‘America’s Got Talent,’ is a dream come true,” choir member Zoe Gulwa, 21, told CNN during a recent interview in Johannesburg.
During their first audition, the choir performed a rendition of ‘It’s OK’ as a tribute to former AGT contestant Jane ‘Nightbirde’ Marczewski who died from cancer in 2022.
Emotions were running high, even for one of the more critical judges, Simon Cowell. After their audition, the teary record executive told the group their performance was “perfect,” saying it “brought back memories” for him.
“The judges cried. They said that that tribute took them back to the moment when Nightbirde sang on that stage,” Gulwa said. “They said that she would’ve been so proud, and she would’ve cried as well witnessing that moment.”
It was a moment she and other members of the choir say they’ll never forget.
Marina Zaaiman, one of the co-founders of the choir, said, “when the audience went mad, we looked at each other (and) all three of us started to cry and smile and we couldn’t believe what’s happening around us. It was just amazing.”
The Mzansi Youth Choir has performed alongside musical talents including Shakira, Beyoncé and South African flutist Wouter Kellerman. Now 45 members strong, they have their sights set on what would be one of their biggest accomplishments to date – winning ‘America’s Got Talent.’