R Kelly 'back home' in Africa

07 June 2010 - 00:24 By ZWELAKHE SHANGASE

US R&B singer R Kelly spent a month in his recording studio researching and absorbing African culture, and watching soccer, in preparation for his performance at the opening of the World Cup.

R Kelly and the Soweto Spiritual Singers will perform the World Cup anthem, Sign of a Victory, at Soccer City on Friday.

Speaking to journalists yesterday, the R&B singer said his song was inspired by soccer. "I immersed myself in research and books, I also watched soccer."

He said he had no idea that his song would headline the biggest sporting event in the world.

"I couldn't believe it when I heard that it was chosen but I believe it was custom-made for the event."

"I watched video tapes [of the Soweto Spiritual Singers], listened to them and just fell in love with their music instantly. I felt that the song would not be complete without a touch of gospel."

He said his intention was for his song to ''inspire world peace and shine a light on global warming, and bring humanity around the world together. I have gained more respect for the craft [soccer] through my song."

Nkululeko Vilakazi, co-founder of the Soweto Spiritual Singers, said the group was excited to be sharing a stage with R Kelly.

"The song embodies the story of South Africa - hope, strength and triumph over adversity.

''The song is an uplifting message of ... victory. It blends American R&B and pop with the Soweto Spiritual Singers' Zulu choral chants and African musical influences," said Vilakazi.

Kelly said that the soccer fever in America is big, much like in South Africa.

"Everybody knows it - it is everywhere, and it is the biggest thing I have ever been involved in."

Kelly said he wants to produce an album dedicated to Africa and hopes "to work more with African artists and explore African talents in the future".

Kelly said South Africa is a special place.

"I believe this is where it all began, not just the football - the DNA, if you will . and to be here in this way, it's unbelievable.

"I believe we are welcoming the world home. "