"Our dream is to let children know that just because you're born into poverty doesn't mean that you are poverty," the choir director said

By Karen Mizoguchi
June 25, 2019 10:20 PM

The Ndlovu Youth Choir from South Africa is definitely an act to keep an eye on this season’s America’s Got Talent.

Judges, including Gabrielle Union and Simon Cowell, were blown away on Tuesday night’s episode by the group’s joyful performance of their song “My African Dream,” which encapsulated their journeys from their home country to the big stage.

For many of the choir members, their AGT audition meant it was their first trip to the United States, with one of the choir members telling the judges: “It’s like I’m dreaming right now, wow.”

“There’s been a lot of difficulties there. Growing up it has been really hard for us,” one male singer told audiences, with another group member sharing that their country “has a lot of poverty.”

A separate male choir member added, “Most of the homes do not have running water, it’s really difficult.”

Trae Patton/NBC

Choir director Ralf Schmitt, who helped create the group in 2009, said, “The challenges these kids face is really devastating, many of our kids’ parents passed away. They got to look after little siblings on their own. So to try and help those orphans and vulnerable children, we started a choir,” adding, “When they join us, many of the kids have the weight of the world on their shoulders and their problems feel insurmountable.”

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“They come from one of the poorest communities in the world. Yet, these kids manage to lift themselves up. To see them standing on the stage of America’s Got Talent tonight,” Schmitt tearfully said, “you can’t help but burst with pride.”

Union, 46, was the first to applaud the act as she rose to her feet during their performance, even giving them a standing ovation. “From the second you walked out, I think this whole place was rooting for you and you did not disappoint,” the L.A.’s Finest actress said. “You showcased the beauty that you represent. You are giving so much hope, I can’t thank you enough.”

Julianne Hough also agreed. “To feel your authenticity and joy coming through, I felt like you transported us to where you’re from. It was so beautiful, so magical,” she said.

“There’s nothing more exciting to see people come to this stage from far away and you bring your culture and you bring your life, share your talent. Everything you did, how you’re dressed, I mean, I love the color, I love the sound,” Howie Mandel commended the choir.

“We’ve always been waiting for a choir like this, something we’ve never heard before. Your energy was literally bouncing off to me right there, it was great. You, I’m going to remember,” said Cowell, 59.

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With four yeses, the Ndlovu Youth Choir successfully moved onto the next round as one choir member said, “We’re shooting for the stars.”

And director Scmit described his choir’s message perfectly: “Our dream is to let children know that just because you’re born into poverty doesn’t mean that you are poverty.”

America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.

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