The first wave of contemporary Christian music from South Africa has arrived in the United States, bringing a message of hope rising out of that torn nation’s racial strife.

Albums by three South African Christian musical groups are available in the United States. They include Victor Phume and the Syndicate’s King of Kings, an album of “contemporary tribal gospel music”; Children of Africa, featuring African-flavored Christian pop music by Africa Sonrise, a mixed-race quartet from Cape Town (now living in Canada); and We See a New Africa, by a multiracial group called Friends First. The latter group blends Western popular music influences with traditional African rhythms, harmonies, and instrumentation.

The Friends First album was the first to reach the United States, and so far it is making the biggest impact. In its songs, the group appeals to the sovereignty of God over South Africa, calling for racial reconciliation, and offering hope beyond the current turmoil.

Musical Ministry

Friends First traces its beginnings to 1985 when the 250-member Glenridge Christian Fellowship in Durban, South Africa, spent 21 days in prayer and fasting. As national conditions deteriorated, the church struggled with complex questions: What was God’s answer to the country’s violent conflict? What was the church’s role in reconciliation?

As church members prayed, they developed a common conviction: Unless God directly intervened, the nation would collapse. But through him, hope and reconciliation could come to all races. Boycotts, violence, debate, and political reform would ultimately be less effective than love, trust, friendship, and respect expressed cross-racially by South Africa’s Christians.

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