Name: Erik Reichert
Minor: Business administration
Her Campus: What attracted you to UF’s only African Choir Pazeni Sauti?
Erik Reichert: “I got into Africa Choir because I heard about them from other people, and I had never sang in a choir before, so I thought it would be a cool experience. My girlfriend had joined it a year prior, and she would sing some of the songs to me and tell me about the stories behind the songs. I became super interested.”
HC: Were you confident in your musical talents before the audition process?
ER: “Luckily there’s no formal audition process for it, so it’s more like you just sing with the group for a little and then get placed into one of the four sections based on your voice. I was not confident with my musical skills at all. I sang in a musical in high school like once, but I was in the ensemble, you know, standing in the back of the back, unnoticed. I did enjoy the dancing though. I was a boss at the dance moves; the singing not so much.”
HC: What is your favorite aspect of the African music you perform on stage?
ER: “I think it’s just the fact that it’s in a completely different language, something very unique. It is different from what everybody else does. Most of the songs are Gospel songs, so they are very religious in nature, but you can’t even tell some of the songs are religious. They’re just so upbeat, and they create a distinctive experience altogether. You also get to pick up a few words in different languages that you can throw around. There are at least 300 languages in Africa, and one of the main ones we use in choir is Swahili because our director is from Kenya, where the language is Swahili. I love speaking to him in Swahili because he’ll answer back, even though he speaks English perfectly. I like being able to speak in his tongue, even if it’s just a little. It’s fun.”
HC: Have you developed a new perspective on the African culture and heritage?
ER: “I definitely have. The words in Swahili are easy for me to pronounce because they’re very similar to pronunciations in Spanish, which is one of my mother tongues. The vowel sounds in Swahili and Spanish are similar, but completely different to the those in English. I never would have thought I’d be able to pronounce words in one of the many African languages.”
HC: Which has been your most memorable performance with Pazeni Sauti?
ER: “The most memorable performance that I’ve ever had was the performance we did in conjunction with a choir from Nairobi, Kenya. The group was in Gainesville on a tour of the southeast United States, and they made it a point to contact us beforehand to set up a joint concert between our two choirs. It was awesome because although it was their concert, we had the opportunity to perform for almost half the duration of the concert. It was a memorable experience to interact with them and have that cultural exchange. They spoke perfect English because they learned it in school in Kenya, and we got to practice our Swahili. After the concert, we had this random dance session when we were all dancing and just having a great time.”
HC: What do you value most about your experience with the African Choir?
ER: “What I value most is probably all the lasting friendships I’ve made within the choir. I’ve exposed myself to people I probably would never have met if it were not for the Africa Choir, and they’re all really amazing people. To me, that is definitely the most invaluable part.”
Photo Courtesy of Erik Reichert