As an avid South African gospel music lover, I am always amazed at the level of excellence found in a Neville D offering. If you recall, this Cape Town born and raised singer/songwriter nabbed an award at the 2015 GMA Dove Awards last year. He also joined renowned gospel super star, Israel Houghton, at the 2016 Grammy Awards in February this year, after they were nominated for an award in the Best Gospel Performance Song of the Year category.
It’s clear that Neville D (or Neville Diedrichs) has what it takes to make international audiences sit up and listen. Which is why I was thoroughly impressed with the theme of his most recent offering, Beauty of Difference Season 2. The album is a follow up to the ‘Season 1’ 2014 release, and carries the same heart: to celebrate the beautiful differences of race and colour in South Africa. The ‘Season 2’ offering consists of 2 CDs, an English album and an Afrikaans album titled ‘Prag Van Verskil.’ Both albums were recorded live at Lifehouse Church in Cape Town in July 2015.
I had the pleasure of enjoying the Beauty of Difference, The live concert experience, DVD and found it to be everything that I thought it would be! For starters, Neville D features an eclectic, mixed race, 75 member choir, who shares their angelic harmonies on various songs throughout the recording. The stunning vocal arrangements and the significance of having a culturally diverse choir made up of men, women, boys and girls of all races and languages, set the scene for the Beauty of Difference experience. The DVD features songs from both the Beauty of Difference and Prag van Verskil albums.
Prag van Verskil
The DVD opener is a high energy, Afrikaans praise song called Die naam van die here Jesus. I found myself bopping to the beat as the singers and worship leader effortlessly led me to a place of freedom. And that was only the first song!
Track 2 on the DVD, My siel se ja, introduced me to the powerful vocal of local songbird, Charisma Hanekam. Hanekam, better known for her role in the Joyous Celebration gospel ensemble, delivers the song with grit and persuasion as she declares, “My siel se ja!” (“My soul says yes!”)
Neville also pairs up with local gospel stalwarts, Tommy Saaiden and Simon Seekoei for the song Ek vertel Jesus. It’s pretty obvious that Saaiden and Seekoei are giants in the Spirit. They deliver the hymn from a place of depth and (what seems to be) a knowing that comes from walking with the Lord for many years. Neville explains that the pair had helped to shape his musical career and it just made sense to have them feature on the album.
Another notable moment on the DVD is the Koortjie Battle between Neville and local jazz musician, Jonathan Rubain. For those who are familiar with the Cape “pinkster” sound, this will be a treat! Afrikaans “pinkster” praise and worship music was birthed in the Cape Pinksteren (or Pentecostal) church and is well known for its high energy, uptempo praise. On the DVD, Neville D and Jonathan Rubain battle it out to see who can sing the oldest and more popular “pinkster” song.
Beauty of Difference
The English tracks on the DVD are just as exciting. I particularly enjoyed Nobody like Jesus – a new release with a more modern sound.
The emotive Broken is significant to the singer, since he wrote it after his mother passed away. “In isolation, it may appear negative, but when my mom passed away, people always told me to stay strong & to hang in there?! I felt like I needed permission to grieve. I searched scripture and the Psalms, and it was a song I wrote in my time of brokenness, allowing myself to grieve,” he explained. The rich vocal arrangement sung by the Beauty of Difference singers add life to the song lyric that says: “I’m broken, won’t you take my broken pieces and can you fix me one more time.”
The DVD ends on a high with a special duet featuring former Idols winner, Khaya Mthethwa. The song, titled Our God is awesome is delivered splendidly by the two singers, who leave no heart unmoved as they belt out truths about our King.
In Beauty of Difference, The live concert experience we find an album that celebrates the beauty of difference in each South African and the greatness of our God, found in the complex of this very design. The only thing this DVD lacks is it’s title track, Beauty of Difference, sung by Jazz legend Judith Sephuma. But other than that, I would give it a thumbs up! The Afrikaans additions are unique to our nation, with a sound that is refreshing and unlike anything that has been circulating set lists recently. The compositions are skillfully arranged and the vocal team and band deliver music with a gifting that can’t be taught. All in all, I found the DVD to be excellently produced, entertaining and message-filled.