With The Soil making it in the music industry, a cappella seemed to have been revived in the country. With hip hop’s bass beats and house music’s loud synthesisers, there seemed to be no room for anything else, let alone vocal groups. But the opposite appears to be true. Coming to music stores and hopefully to a city near you are the Uthando Gospel Singers, a group of 15 singers from KwaZulu-Natal.

Formed about five years ago when the young singers were still at school, Uthando Gospel Singers have gone from strength to strength.

“We were inspired by groups like Abangobi and Ithemba Musical Group, which specialise in nothing but the voice as a musical instrument,” said Rich Mhlongo, the group’s manager.

To make their presence felt, the group have released their first effort, Sizohamb’ Ekukhanyeni, which will hit shelves soon.

“The CD has 10 songs of praise and worship and our main goal is to encourage the youth to come to God,” explained Mhlongo.

Since the group’s inception, they have had a resident writer penning their songs.

The group paid close attention to the songs that made them popular at live shows and added them to the Sizohamb’ Ekukhanyeni project.

But don’t let the suits and confidence they exude fool you.

They have faced several challenges, the main one being working with nothing but their voices. As tempting as guitars and pianos could have been, especially for a gospel act, these men have held on to their identity.

“Singing without instruments is not easy because it means that people can hear your exposed voice. The challenge then becomes to sing without boring people and we have tried our best to get it right,” said Mhlongo.

The other challenge they face is financial backing, as they are an independent act.

“Companies do not support music, and so we struggle.

“Right now, most of the members of our band have just finished matric and some are trying to go to college, but all that is hard because we have no financial backing,” he said.

This prompted them to plan their first national tour to introduce themselves to the nation.

“We plan to go into a lot of places, including uMlazi, KwaMashu and Claremont this month and the next,” revealed Mhlongo.

To make their gigs more interesting the group have roped in some of their heroes in the genre, The Soil, Abanqobi, Ithemba and Ithimba Le-Africa, to tour with them.

“We are planning to shoot a DVD at some of these events and we also hope to inspire the youngsters who want to do something with their lives that anything is possible,” he said.

• Sizohamb’ Ekukhanyeni will be available in music stores soon.