For the past two decades, Joyous Celebration has been at the forefront of the South African gospel music scene, generating an almost unparalleled support base. Along the way they’ve received numerous awards, performed at venues across the world and inspired millions of people through their music.

The gospel collective’s founder, Lindelani Mkhize, explained what they’re about: “Basically Joyous Celebration is a concept, a production that people actually call a group. But the idea of Joyous Celebration, and how and why it was formed, was to create a platform for unknown singers with singing talent to be paid, groomed and prepared for the bigger stage.

“So, as Joyous Celebration, we go out there to look for new talent and spend time training and preparing them to go out and work within the music space. Be it music directors, worship singers or solo musicians - we provide them with a platform.”

The cast tours the country every year, drawing large crowds everywhere they go. Their collection has become a staple in the gospel fan’s music diet. For the recently-released 21st instalment of their live DVD recording series, Joyous Celebration went to the Potter’s House Church in Dallas, Texas, where the world-famous pastor, Bishop T.D. Jakes, hosted their show.

Mkhize never imagined Joyous Celebration would come this far.

“We were really driven by the fact that we believe in the talent in this country. We believe in the youth of the townships, because we also come from the townships. If people didn’t give us opportunities we wouldn’t be where we are today, we wouldn’t be who we are. People identified what we have and gave us an opportunity.”

In Mkhize’s case, it was the legendary artist and producer, Chicco Twala, who identified his potential and gave him a chance. Unaware that they’d be building a national brand, his aim when they started was simply to repay the favour and create opportunities for other young artists.

One of his highlights over the past two decades has been defying the notion that gospel music would not succeed in South Africa. Today, gospel is South Africa’s best-selling genre. The Joyous Celebration 21 album, Heal Our Land, went gold on pre-order alone.

Last week, the group held an event to celebrate their success and in anticipation of this new recording. “It was beautiful,” Mkhize said. “We were re-signing a new contract with MTN, which was quite exciting for us because they’ve been going through a lot over the last few years and have cut down on a few things. (But) when there’s a musical production, we still get support from them.”

Mkhize’s aim now is to keep the brand growing and make a lasting impact on the music industry.

“As Joyous Celebration, we’re positioning ourselves to say that, while there’s a lot of negativity, there’s also a lot of good, and we’re going to try to focus on that. So there’s still a lot of work that Joyous needs to do and we will always remain relevant.”

Heal Our Land is a call for togetherness and unity, a message which is particularly relevant given the recent spike in xenophobic attacks across the country.

“There really is some serious healing that is needed in our land,” he said. “And it’s a way for us to say, ‘Yes, we might be different; yes, we might have different backgrounds, but how can we work together?’ We’re praying for divine intervention.”

The Joyous Celebration 21 tour kicks off this weekend at Carnival City’s Big Top Arena.

“Our fans are buying tickets in numbers. The Saturday show will be very special because we’re inviting all organisations, from church organisations to political organisations. And we’re going to have a healing prayer at the show.

“We have invited pastors from different denominations in Gauteng so that they can come and pray with us.”

This is a format they intend following in every region that they visit during the course of the year.

“There’ll be a lot of interesting surprises. We always try and make every show different, although we’re singing the same songs. A Joyous show is an experience - you’re not just coming to sit down and watch,” said Mkhize.

After this weekend’s show they’ll be going to the Eastern Cape, before preaching and spreading the message across all the other provinces.