Gospel megastar Yolanda Adams is being honored this week at the inaugural ESSENCE Festival in Durban, South Africa, for her role in the genre.
The East Coast city loves its gospel music and, while it will be her first time performing in Durban, Adams already has a huge fan base there. She has been to Johannesburg and Cape Town several times over the past decade.
Asked what the honor meant to her, Adams told Essence, “It means that I have contributed something significant to the genre and people respect my voice, they respect what I bring to the table and also the fact that I love gospel music.”
The Multiple Grammy Award, NAACP Image Award, Stellar, and Dove Award Winner headlines the Essence All-Star Gospel Concert in Durban on Sunday. She told Essence that fans could expect an intimate setting where she will try to hit some of the favorites.
“They can expect a very appreciative Yolanda who has always been in touch with the sound of authenticity that comes from gospel music in South Africa. Also, I am looking forward to worshipping with the people because y’all don’t hold back when you worship.”
In South Africa, Adams has a following that reaches outside of regular gospel circles to even those who would not ordinarily listen to gospel music. She attributes that to letting people see her as a real person and not as an untouchable star whose live they could never have.
ESSENCE Festival is going to Durban, South Africa. Get more info here.
“I believe that when you come to people and tell them that ‘Hey, I’m just like you. I hurt, I cry, I wish there were days that I could sleep for 12 hours,’ people will see you as a real person.”
She has followed South African gospel music since performing there for the first time in 2005 and has seen it growing its reach worldwide. She says South African gospel artists “have done some amazing things in the gospel genre. [South Africa has] always been known for [its] pop and hip-hop type of influence, but the gospel has gone around the world. Even those of us who are in the States appreciate the South African gospel artists. The sound is full of joy, it’s full of overcoming, it’s full of victory. There’s nothing like it in the world. I’ve sung in Asia and Europe, but there’s nothing like the South African sound of worship. It just takes you to another level with God.”
Adams says that one of her fondest memories about South Africa was the year she brought along her daughter Taylor, who was three and a half years old at the time.
“We were about to go on safari, and one of the dance troupes was dancing outside of the hotel. My daughter was just dancing with the troupe, and they were laughing, and they were like, ‘She’s so talented, she has it already.’”
She also remembers performing Fragile Heart, which was a big hit at the time and having almost 20,000 people singing along verbatim. “I was just crying, and my heart was just so overwhelmed,” she says.
She is excited to reconnect with the people because “I think one of the beautiful things about the people of South Africa is [they] are so warm so kind, so loving. I think that’s what we really need in the States right about now - we need a bunch of love. I know I’m gonna get that when I get there and also, to get back into the culture of South Africa. To eat the food, I’m a foodie, so that’s huge for me.’
U.S. fans can catch Adams on “The Yolanda Adams Morning Show,” which returned to the airwaves in October on new radio station Amazing 102.5FM, after the Radio-One contract for her syndicated program expired in April.