The SA choir that got historic golden buzzer on AGT and made Simon Cowell tear up

Stephen Nartey August 24, 2023
Mzansi Youth Choir. Photo: Instagram/Mzansi Youth Choir

The Mzansi Youth Choir from Soweto, South Africa, achieved a remarkable feat on “America’s Got Talent” (AGT) recently. During their audition, they received the first-ever audience-awarded golden buzzer, which propelled them directly to the live shows of the NBC talent competition. This exciting moment was celebrated with confetti raining down on the stage.

During their initial audition, the Mzansi Youth Choir paid tribute to the late AGT contestant Jane “Nightbirde” Marczewski, who passed away from cancer in 2022, by performing “It’s OK.” This emotional performance moved even the typically critical judge Simon Cowell to tears.

Cowell praised their rendition as perfect and mentioned it brought back memories for him. The judges, touched by the tribute, acknowledged that it reminded them of Nightbirde’s moment on the AGT stage and believed she would have been proud and moved by the choir’s performance, according to CNN.

After receiving the golden buzzer in May, the Mzansi Youth Choir returned to South Africa and have been diligently preparing for the next phase of their adventure. Zoe Gulwa, a 21-year-old choir member, expressed that performing on “America’s Got Talent” is a dream come true for them.

The choir, including Marina Zaaiman, one of its co-founders, described the moment as unforgettable. When the audience’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive, they were so moved that they cried and smiled in disbelief, finding the experience truly amazing.

Zaaiman and her husband Jannie founded the choir in 2003 with the initial goal of fostering an atmosphere of unconditional love and safety. Their inspiration came after a carjacking incident involving young individuals.

Instead of harboring anger, the couple aimed to provide underprivileged children with a sense of purpose, keeping them away from the streets and offering them a meaningful opportunity through the choir. The choir’s international success was unforeseen when they started this initiative.

For members like 22-year-old Bulelwa Kaybee Mphahlwa, the Mzansi Youth Choir has become an essential support system. She describes the choir as a loving and familial community, providing members with a sense of belonging and purpose. Importantly, it has steered them away from the streets, danger, and potentially harmful activities, offering a positive alternative to their lives.

The Mzansi Youth Choir, with 45 members, has had the privilege of performing alongside notable artists like Shakira, Beyoncé, and South African flutist Wouter Kellerman. Their current goal is to achieve one of their most significant accomplishments yet, which is winning America’s Got Talent.

The Mzansi Youth Choir is putting in a lot of effort to prepare for the next round of AGT, according to Zoe Gulwa. Winning the competition, which comes with a $1 million prize, holds immense importance for them. Choir member Keneilwe Melato expressed that winning would be the most significant achievement for both her and the choir, as it offers the opportunity to touch and positively impact many people’s lives on a big stage.

The Mzansi Youth Choir is confident about its chances of winning AGT, but it also recognizes that its message has already made a significant impact worldwide. Their primary goal is to bring hope to people, touching their hearts and souls. The live shows have begun, with the AGT finale set to air on September 26.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 24, 2023


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