I have known Sharon Katz, for likely the last decade and am re-energized whenever I am in her presence. She of the fire-y red hair and the passionate persona, for music that speaks from the heart and to the heart of peace and social justice. An aural activist, Sharon lives in both in South Africa and Philadelphia. Her group called Sharon Katz and The Peace Train, entertains, educates and joins hearts and hands world-wide.
How do you live your bliss?
My bliss is about being thankful for what I have. I remind myself each time I wake up that I’m alive and to be present in the moment. Then there is the knowledge of my mission to make a difference in people’s lives through the music that I play. And playing the music itself. What could be more blissful?
Please speak about the journey you took from your homeland of South Africa to being a world citizen.
As a teenager I traveled illegally to Black townships near my home town of Port Elizabeth (now called Nelson Mandela Bay!) to visit my actor friends who were working with Athol Fugard. I first left South Africa in 1978 to go and live in Lesotho where I lived and worked in remote village for a year and I gathered so many wonderful songs, singing with children daily. I later traveled to the United States in 1981 to study music therapy in Philadelphia returning to South Africa after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990. It was then that I started The Peace Train musical production and mounted a 500 voice multicultural childrens choir to herald in the new non racial Democratic South Africa. Then in 1993 we traveled around the country with the children and the band for two weeks and that was the original legendary Peace Train Tour. After that tour I traveled South Africa, West Africa, the Middle East and United States for many years with The Peace Train and around 2000 formed a band here in the USA. It’s been a journey ever since with tours, performances and workshops around the world and back to South Africa constantly. It’s nice to think about myself as a world citizen because I feel that my message of peace and reconciliation is one that is very important for the world to hear. But my journey from my homeland always takes me back to my homeland and that is my joy. I’m a truly proud South African and counting down the days for when I will be home again soon!
How does music feed your soul?
My soul IS music and music IS my soul. The one cannot exist without the other. Music is my life force. It is the act of self expression that ignites a spark within me and through that spark I can light a fire in another soul. Whether it’s a classroom of young people or thousands of people in a stadium or a hundred people at a house concert. Also listening to music and watching others that I admire in performance – that is a wonderful treat and can inspire me for weeks and months.
What power does it have to transcend language and politics?
Transcending language is easy because music is a language. I’m amazed that when I sing in Zulu or any other South African language, people “get it” through the rhythm and the harmonies and you’ll see people jumping up to dance and participate. Music is a spiritual force and energy and thus it transcends everything including politics. However in my opinion music has the power to unite people and as we saw in South Africa my home, music was the force that gave us hope and enabled the masses of oppressed people in my country to have the strength to resist the evil regime and survive. In that sense music transcends politics because it is above and beyond politics and has the power to reach into the human spirit to keep that spirit alive.
I love your interactive concerts during which you can’t help but sing and dance along. What is like for you to be on stage and watch your audience perform as well?
Now you make me smile Edie! Because this is the most fantastic thing I can ever experience. When you see that you are creating joy you can feel nothing but elation. I always feel that I was given a gift and that I’m very blessed and honored to be using that gift to make people happy.
How can people ‘jump aboard’ the Peace Train?
Jumping aboard means coming to a concert to feel the spirit and hear the music. People who have gone to Peace Train concerts say that our concerts are an experience and an encounter. When you are there in person you can understand what we are singing about which is really about unity and togetherness as members of the human race. We use South Africa and Nelson Mandela as examples of human beings abilities to put aside what happened in the past and move forward with forgiveness and joy into the future. Jumping aboard can also mean coming with us to visit South Africa which we do annually with a group of about 20 friends and fans. In fact we have a tour going to South Africa from the US departing on August 7th and there are still a few slots open! People should contact me at SharonKatz2000@aol.com if they want to come on the trip. OR better still come and see us at World Cafe Live on April 29th and meet us in person!
I would love for you to let our readers know about the amazing fundraiser project in which you are engaged that will be happening in Philadelphia on April 29th.
Oh YES! We have a fantastic fundraising event taking place at World Cafe Live on Sunday April 29th. Its a noon concert, dance party, HOT LUNCH, with The Peace Train incredible new all female band, and special musical guests including childrens choirs! It’s a fundraiser for children who have so little in South Africa and many of whom have lost their parents to HIV and AIDS and some of whom live in child headed households. We completed building a school in one of the poorest areas of South Africa with the help of audience members who came to our concerts. Now we need to buy books and beds for some of the neediest children. So please do come out and party with The Peace Train for a wonderful cause. We’ll also show some slides so you can see what our work is all about.
Tickets are $50 which can either be purchased by sending a tax deductible check to Friends of The Peace Train, 7207 Bryan Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119 or by buying tickets directly from World Cafe Live at worldcafelive.com
Left to Right:
Lee-Sa Dawn Robinson (drums); Lynn Riley (saxophone) Wendy Quick (vocals, dance) Sharon Katz (vocals, guitar) Monnette Sudler (bass)