Mzansi Youth Choir from South Africa performs a moving rendition of Nightbirde’s ‘It’s OK’ on America’s Got Talent.
The premiere of the 18th season of America’s Got Talent (AGT) reminded us once again of the emotional power of music and the enduring strength of the human spirit. Simon Cowell, long-time judge on AGT, initiated a first-of-its-kind event, using an extra Golden Buzzer in the season premiere, and turning the decision-making power over to the live audience to determine the fate of the Mzansi Youth Choir.
Hailing from the historically rich Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Mzansi Youth Choir moved the audience to tears with their soul-stirring rendition of Jane “Nightbirde” Marczewski’s “It’s OK”. This poignant song, a beacon of Nightbirde’s enduring optimism despite her battle with cancer, struck a chord with the audience, with the Mzansi Youth Choir’s performance serving as a heartwarming tribute to her courage.
“America’s Got Talent is the biggest talent competition in the world,” said Zoe, a member of the Mzansi Youth Choir. “And it has the power to inspire and give hope to the people.” This sentiment was palpably felt by everyone present as the choir, clad in white, rendered their touching interpretation of “It’s OK”.
Nightbirde’s fight against cancer ended tragically when she passed away in February 2022, aged 31. Despite withdrawing from the AGT competition due to her deteriorating health, Nightbirde’s spirit lived on. Her inspiring words, “It’s important that everyone knows I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me,” echoed through the auditorium as the choir paid homage to her memory.
The Mzansi Youth Choir also carries a tale of resilience in its inception. Born out of a traumatic event 20 years ago when a group of youths carjacked the choir’s founders, the choir was formed to provide a creative and empowering outlet for underprivileged children in South Africa. Just like Nightbirde, they are a testament to the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
The tribute to Nightbirde brought AGT’s host and panel of judges to their feet, visibly moved by the touching performance. Sofia Vergara praised the choir’s talent, saying, “What a surprise to hear that song; your voices are fantastic. That was the perfect AGT audition.”
The soulful tribute resonated deeply with Simon Cowell, who struggled to contain his emotions. “I know how much this would have — would have meant to her,” he said, voice breaking. “Right until the end, she was so passionate about sharing her music, and this has gone all over the world, and you come back here with the most amazing tribute.”
In a groundbreaking move, Cowell decided to let the audience decide whether the choir deserved the extra Golden Buzzer. Responding to the audience’s unanimous chants of “Golden Buzzer,” Terry Crews, the host of AGT, joined the judges in pressing the Golden Buzzer in Nightbirde’s memory, effectively advancing the Mzansi Youth Choir to the live shows.
The choir’s members, overwhelmed with joy and pride, formed heart shapes with their hands, a powerful symbol of love that reverberated throughout the world. Their triumphant moment came just months after Nightbirde’s family and the Nightbirde Foundation released her posthumous debut album, an enduring testament to her spirit and inspiration.
The Mzansi Youth Choir’s performance was not just a tribute but also a powerful message of hope and resilience that echoed Nightbirde’s philosophy. They reminded us, in their own words, to always look for the silver lining in tragedy. Their performance is a testament to the power of music and the enduring spirit of humanity. As they continue their journey on AGT, they will carry with them Nightbirde’s legacy and her inspiring message, “It’s OK.”
WATCH: Mzansi Youth Choir Performs Nightbirde’s ‘It’s OK’