Cape Town - It may not draw as many visitors as the World Cup in Russia, but there are almost twice as many countries involved in the World Choir Games with 62 nations participating.
The choristers from around the world descended on Tshwane this week for the 10th edition of the games.
South Africa is the first African country to host the event.
During its electrifying opening ceremony, the Sun Arena was filled to capacity and every voice sang the South African national anthem while the flag was hoisted on stage.
During the opening ceremony, the country’s traditional song, dance, theatre and cultural attire were showcased, and the visitors were taught how to say hello in all 11 official languages.
Celebrated artist Esther Mahlangu painted a calabash in Ndebele colours for the ceremony, and it was brought out bearing a flame. Multiple Grammy Award-winners Ladysmith Black Mambazo took to the stage and belted out their hits Homeless and Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain.
WATCH A ROUNDUP OF THE OPENING CEREMONY HERE:
(Click here to watch it on Facebook)
With 27 different categories, the games will feature champions and open competitions for experienced and inexperienced choirs. There will also be friendship concerts.
The event is also referred to as the Olympics of Choral Music, and has drawn more than 300 choirs and 16 500 participants.
Participating countries include the US, Russia, Australia, Brazil, Nigeria, India and Kenya.
All choristers get to mingle between performance venues at the World Choir Village at the Greek Orthodox Church in Tshwane. The venue offers food trucks, entertainment and arts and crafts.
Media personalities Katlego Maboe and Relebogile Mabotja, who hosted the opening event, brought their humour, warmth and charisma to the official opening.
Also in attendence were Gauteng Sport‚ Arts and Culture MEC Faith Mazibuko, Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga and festival chairperson Mzwandile Matthews.
CLICK HERE TO SEE SNAPS OF THE WORLD CHOIR GAMES 2018
Sibongile Khumalo, the head of the artistic committee of the games, said the world should expect to hear the African drum beat throughout the games.
“The drum beat represents a common culture of heritage among the people of this continent and the diaspora,” she said.
“It expresses our quest for freedom. We beat the drum as a call to worship. We beat the drum to celebrate. We beat the drum to recognise each other. We beat it to welcome you into our space.”
In his welcoming address, Msimanga said: “We are the only country in the world that, when we cry, we sing. When we’re happy, we sing. When we are sad, we sing.
“When we were going through apartheid, the world thought we enjoyed it because we sang and danced in the streets,” he said to loud applause.