CRYSTAL Kassi, founder of the London African Gospel Choir, has issued a challenge to anyone attending the group’s first show in Manchester next week.

“Just try and sit still in your seat,” she said. “You won’t be able to resist the rhythms and the energy of the choir.”

The choir and musicians will be performing their interpretation of Paul Simon’s classic album Graceland at Manchester Academy.

“It’s a real melting pot of styles and influences from all over Africa,” said Crystal, who formed the choir almost 15 years ago. “We have taken out own approach to Graceland. I’m not sure what Paul Simon would make of it.”

The chances are Paul Simon would be left entranced by the choir’s all-action presentation complete with sumptuous harmonies.

“We are approached by the Jazz Cafe in London to perform our version of Graceland,” said Crystal, “It sold out for six successive nights. On the back of that promoters and venues got in touch wanting us to take the show on tour.”

Although they have previously played in front of a sell out crowd at the O2 in London, the Graceland tour is the choir’s first opportunity to bring their music to audiences around the country.

“Our aim is to tour every city in England and abroad,” she laughed.

In forming the choir, Crystal had a very firm idea about what she wanted to achieve.

“I just wanted to share with the world what was happening in the churches,” she said. “There is so much talent there that people don’t know about.”

The choir has also helped provide employment and a focus for many London-based musicians with African roots.

“Before the choir started, these very talented musicians and singers were only performing in church and then going back to their day jobs during the week,” said Crystal.

“It’s so much better if you can do what you love full time and the choir gives them that opportunity.”

The choir is made up of members from all across Africa ranging from Zimbabwe and Uganda to Kenya, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

“We also have members who were born in England of African origin and they all come from different churches across London,” said Crystal. “There is a stigma that African people can’t work together based on what’s happening in the political world but with the choir, they all come together as one.”

Music lovers will probably be more familiar with American-style gospel music but Crystal said that African gospel is noticeably different.

“I’d say American gospel is more organised and more structured,” she said.

“We operate completely differently. Even though I’m the director, everyone has input into the harmonies; we all work together as a group. It is perhaps more natural and spontaneous and we never stop moving.

“Our music tries to be both uplifting and joyful. By time people leave the show they have all got smiles on their faces.”

London African Gospel Choir, Manchester Academy, Saturday November 3. Details from 0161 832 1111 or