On My Radar

What's on the director of the Ndlovu Youth Choir's playlist?

Conductor and composer Ralf Schmitt fills us in on what he's been watching, reading and listening to lately

13 October 2019 - 00:00 By Sanet Oberholzer
Ralf Schmitt (left) with members of the Ndlovu Youth Choir who featured on 'America's Got Talent'.
Ralf Schmitt (left) with members of the Ndlovu Youth Choir who featured on 'America's Got Talent'.
Image: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The Ndlovu Youth Choir became a household name recently when they stole the hearts of South Africans with their performances on America's Got Talent. But for the choir's artistic director, Ralf Schmitt, this wasn't the first time his work has been enthusiastically received in a foreign country.

His arrangements and compositions have featured in international productions such as the Fifa World Cup Final and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. He's also worked on productions for Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli and Celtic Women.

He is a conductor, composer and producer whose authentic South African sound and production style epitomises his love of all things local.

We asked him what's on his cultural radar.


I listen to everything from Bra Hugh to Beethoven. My all-time favourite is Bach, and at the moment I'm listening to Samthing Soweto.


I listen to a bit of Gareth Cliff. I also like The New York Times's The Daily, which deals mostly with American news but it's put together and done so well; the production is just so good.

WATCH | Ralf Schmitt conduct the Ndlovu Youth Choir as they perform Toto's 'Africa' on 'America's Got Talent'


There's a lovely choir in Soweto called Africa Rise. Another choir I am listening to is a local chamber choir called the Chanticleer Singers.


Home. I travel so much, so it's my special place. The other place I look forward to is St Francis in December. Another special place for me is the Kruger National Park.


Because I have young kids we mostly go to kid-friendly restaurants. I like Riverside Caffe and Thief in Parkmore.


The Barefoot Coach. It's about inter-personal relationships and group dynamics. I used a lot of the methods in the book while travelling with the choir.


From a music perspective, the film that had the biggest impact on me is The Lion King - as a little white boy listening to "Nants ingonyama ..." There are too many to mention but I have a great love for South African film.