Back in 1992, Sharon made history in her home country of South Africa when she formed the country’s first-ever, 500-member multi-cultural and multi-lingual performing group and staged the production called “When Voices Meet.”
Then in 1993, Sharon rocked the nation with her concert tour, “The Peace Train.” The first performance had been so successful and so widely publicized that invitations began pouring in from all over the country. To respond to all the requests, Sharon got sponsors to hire a train – The Peace Train – and took 150 of the performers, her friends Ladysmith Black Mambazo, as well as TV and radio crews on tour throughout the country. At each stop along the route, they performed their concert and encouraged people of all races, cultures, ages and political affiliations to put down their guns and hostilities and to prepare for the country’s transition to a peaceful democracy. The performing group became known as “The Peace Train” forever more, and all the world watched as Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically elected President a few months later.
“When Voices Meet” is the award-winning documentary about Sharon Katz & The Peace Train. You can see the trailer at https://sharonkatz.com/when-voices-meet/
The CNN piece brought international attention, and the invitations to perform in the US and elsewhere started pouring in. The Peace Train was about to become The Peace Plane!
As South Africa’s “Cultural Ambassadors,” Sharon Katz & The Peace Train took flight in 1995 to spread their music and message to the US. With sponsorship from the government and private sector in both South Africa and America, Sharon responded to the US invitations by taking her 45-member performing group on a 5-week, 8-city US tour. 100,000 fans screamed for more at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, just one of their stops. They were an instant hit, selling out all their CD’s at the first concert.
From Disney World’s International Festival to the New Orleans Jazz Fest, from Harlem to Hampton, Memphis and Cincinnati, and from Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing to Washington, DC’s Duke Ellington School of Performing Arts, Sharon Katz & The Peace Train thrilled audiences of all ages with the unstoppable beat and amazing harmonies of South African music and dance.
Sharon earned a Grammy nomination for her “Imbizo” CD and has several CDs to her credit as well as DVDs that featuring the legendary Pete Seeger in concert with her and the band. Sharon also toured the US with Abigail Kubeka of Miriam Makeba’s Skylarks and recorded an album with her entitled “Double Take.”
With a recording and performing career firmly established, Sharon turned her attention back to her humanitarian work and social development projects in South Africa. With proceeds from CD sales and contributions to her non-profit organization, Friends of The Peace Train, Sharon has established music therapy programs for orphans and communities affected by HIV/AIDS; feeding programs in impoverished areas; conflict resolution work in violence-torn regions; and building schools and community arts centers. She also conducts workshops in schools and universities across America.
In 2013, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of The Peace Train’s original ride through South Africa to help Nelson Mandela break down the barriers that apartheid had created and to usher in the country’s first democratic election. To mark the occasion, the documentary “When Voices Meet” was released and premiered at the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa with simultaneous broadcasts throughout the continent of Africa. “When Voices Meet” has been selected by over 25 film festivals around the world and has won numerous awards including Best Documentary, Best Original Soundtrack, Best Director, Audience Award and President’s Award. Screenings of “When Voices Meet” prompted requests for The Peace Train to develop projects in other parts of the world.
Since 2015, our efforts have focused on bringing together diverse groups and tackling important social justice issues in the USA and Latin America. Under the banner of “Transcending Barriers,” we have worked with local partners to develop initiatives between urban and rural communities; across racial, economic and religious divides; and with established communities and new immigrants.
In 2018, with the support of the San Diego Foundation, we began a Transcending Barriers project in the border region between the USA and Mexico. Working with Promotora de las Bellas Artes in Tijuana, we have devised ongoing bi-national workshops, border crossings and concerts that focus on building greater understanding, respect and friendships. Replicating The Peace Train concept, youth and adults from both sides of the border spend time living, learning, traveling and performing together.
On Indigenous Peoples Weekend, October 9-11, 2020, hundreds of people from the across the USA will convene in San Diego, peacefully cross the border into Tijuana, meet their Mexican counterparts, and all board The Peace Train to travel to Tecate and participate in concerts, workshops and shared living experiences.