It’s impossible to talk about the history and the landscape of South African gospel without mentioning MTN Joyous Celebration. When they staged their very first show in 1996, no one could have imagined the long and illustrious journey that would make them the gospel powerhouse that they are today.
Joyous, as they are referred to by their adoring fans, is the brainchild of three close friends: Jabu Hlongwane, Lindelani Mkhize and Mthunzi Namba, who formed the group to celebrate the political change in the country and the peaceful transition into democracy. The inaugural show was staged at the Wits Great in 1996 and this spiritual awakening was called; Joyous Celebration. The three friends had no idea that they were starting a phenomenon that would see gospel music in South Africa enter uncharted territory as a genre.
The show had unknown yet amazingly talented young men and women who were aspiring musicians and were brought together under the astute leadership of the founding trio, who are still at the core of the Joyous brand to date. Joyous is a developmental platform that seeks to identify, nurture and train raw talent and showcase them on some of the biggest stages in the country. The production consists of 32 strong melodic voices anchored by a 12 piece including a brass that collectively present original and revamped traditional and contemporary gospel songs; arranged and delivered in a unique and signature style that has endeared them to millions of fans across the globe. The musical extravaganza is one of the most anticipated touring productions of its kind in South Africa and always leaves audiences chanting for more.
Their music is recorded in December and released early in the following year. The album release is followed by a tour around the country and beyond the borders of South Africa. As soon as dates for the tour are published, Joyous fans rush to purchase their tickets because it has become a norm to sell out venues as the Gospel Powerhouse stage their annual shows around the country.
Joyous has a rare following that sees a granny accompanied by their children and grandchildren enjoying themselves in one show. The combination of old known and loved hymns and new compositions packaged and performed with excellence has been the Joyous recipe that has kept audiences on their feet for most of the duration of the show.
Very few African households are with out a Joyous CD or DVD or two. Many churches around the country and beyond, have used Joyous music for their worship sessions every Sunday. No wedding or funeral is complete without someone starting a Joyous song and having the whole house joining in.
An interesting phenomenon is seeing government Ministers as well as political heads of different political parties attending the shows with their families. “This is where I attend church”, said Tito Mboweni, the now Finance Minister at one of the shows he had attended.
Joyous Celebration has become the biggest developmental platforms for any artist in South Africa and has revolutionized the music scene and the genre. The group has produced 24 albums and sold over 3 million CDs and DVDs to date and performed live to over a million people in Africa and overseas.
The live broadcast of Joyous 19 by the national broadcaster was a first for any local content. The following year, the recording of Joyous Celebration 20 was in front of a capacity crowd at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. After the success of that, the epic transcontinental Joyous 21 recording took place at Bishop T.D Jakes’ Potters House in Dallas, Texas. These are just some of the key milestones and accolades the group has achieved.
The group has collected its fair share of awards, both in South Africa and abroad. These include; the Best Gospel Event at the Africa Music Awards for Joyous 16, the SAMA (South African Music Awards) for the top selling DVD in the country for the past eight consecutive years as well as the most downloaded album for the last five years.
Over the years, Joyous has produced acts that have found success as solo musicians in different genres. “It’s all about music; all kinds of music,” says Mkhize. “We are driven by the desire to see young people developing into fully fledged musicians.” Some of the illustrious artists that have honed their craft on the Joyous stage include the likes of Ntokozo Mbambo, Nqubeko Mbatha, Brenda Mntambo, Mahalia Buchanan and Khaya Mthethwa amongst many others.
Beyond the Music
Joyous is passionate about changing people’s lives for the better by offering training and coaching to young and talented musicians who want to grow and be part of the platform. Even though time has passed, the mission stayed the same; to produce mature artists that can navigate the industry, be ambassadors of the gospel and lead a biblically principled life.
In the last decade, Joyous Celebration has made an indelible footprint outside the borders of South Africa. They have travelled and performed in countries like Ghana, Kenya and Cameroon and their music has reached as far as Europe and America.
“We are proud to be positioned as an African entity and over the years, we have unearthed and featured talented singers from other African countries including; Hadji, a percussionist from Senegal, Uche from Nigeria Frank, a guitarist from Zimbabwe and Nomzamo from Swaziland,” states Hlongwane.
Joyous is humbled by the enormous support and outpouring of love, well wishes and prayers from friends around the world and as the 25th anniversary approaches, the brand is committed to charting new paths and help establishing the careers of young, talented people from all walks of life.
Though Joyous Cares, our outreach programme, we help out the less fortunate in communities we visit around the country. Many Orphanages, Old Age Homes, Special Needs Schools as well as special specific individuals have benefitted from this programme over the years.
Joyous Awards and Accolades:
Joyous has since decided to abstain from entering the Awards competitions in order to allow up and coming artists many of whom come from the Joyous Ensemble , an opportunity to win these Awards.