JOHANNESBURG Footballers, local musicians and international singing stars will descend on Johannesburg's Soweto township on Thursday for a stadium concert on the eve of the first World Cup on African soil.
Players, including former South Africa defender Lucas Radebe, will introduce the acts at the concert in Soweto's Orlando Stadium which organizers say will draw an even bigger global television audience than Live Earth in 2007.
It is the first time such a music concert has been held as part of the World Cup opening events, and African musicians say it should bring them rare international exposure.
"African music lives within every music made by all the artists lining up here," said Angelique Kidjo, a Grammy Award-winning singer from Benin.
Shakira, one of the best-known artists on the bill, will perform the tournament's official theme song 'This Time for Africa' with South African band Freshly Ground.
"I'm sure tomorrow is going to be an amazing experience," the Colombian singer told reporters as she visited a Soweto school.
Other big names include the Black Eyed Peas, John Legend and Vusi Mahlasela, a South African artist who performed at former President Nelson Mandela's inauguration in 1994 following the country's first multi-racial elections.
Concert organizer Kevin Wall said the venue in Soweto was a symbolic choice for an event that aims to raise the profile of African music.
Soweto is South Africa's biggest township and was home to Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
The artists were among the first to feel the pristine grass on the pitch at the nearby Soccer City stadium when they held a press event to promote the concert.
Soccer City, with its sparkling orange stands and vast television screens, will host the tournament's opening match on Friday between South Africa and Mexico.
They kicked footballs into the air to the whoops of a small crowd of onlookers who had sneaked in to grab a glimpse of the performers. The artists are hoping the concert will get music and soccer fans warmed up for the first game.
"Music is a universal language," said U.S. singer Legend. "In this competition football is a universal language."
(Additional reporting by Serena Chaudhry, Editing by Ken Ferris)
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