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Mandela: SA's greatest son laid to rest (slideshow)
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After a five year contract that kept her in Las Vegas, pop diva Celine Dion is keeping a promise she made to former South African president Nelson Mandela by kicking off her world tour in South Africa, she said at a press conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
"Eish! Why not start in South Africa?" she said. "It was not possible and it was kind of at the end of the world.
"But two years ago Mr Mandela called to invite us and we were committed to be in Las Vegas for five years. René [Angélil, her husband] and I promised each other and Mr Mandela that we would start [the next tour] in South Africa.
"I am more than thrilled to be here. Jozi people are lekker," said Dion.
Dion is the biggest selling female artist in South Africa and her 12-month tour is named after her latest album, Taking Chances.
The Grammy-award winning Canadian said that Las Vegas was something that slowed down her career, giving her stability and time to focus on her family.
"But this [new] album means I am coming back. It's something that I am most proud of. We took a chance and we recorded something that was a little bit different from before.
"It was almost like going back to my childhood and my influence from my brothers and sisters -- it's more grounded and a little bit edgier, but it is still the same Celine."
Dion recorded her first single written by her mother when she was 12. They sent the demo tape to Angélil, a producer who would later become her husband and would mortgage his house to help pay for her first album.
Celine and her siblings sent the tape in and did not receive a reply.
"My brother called him and said, 'Mr Angélil, you did not listen to the tape and we know that you did not listen to it because otherwise you would have called us'."
Dion was welcomed to the press conference by the Soweto Gospel Choir, who on Sunday night won their second Grammy award.
Dion said "Eish ...", and then smiled and expressed her admiration for choir's performance.
The choir will be a supporting act for her first performance on Valentine's Day along with pop icon Danny K and Idols winner Jody Williams.
Dion will kick off the 35-country Taking Chances tour at the Coca-Cola Dome in Johannesburg on Valentine's Day.
She will stay in South Africa for three weeks, perform in Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, and give an additional show in Johannesburg on March 1 before flying to Europe.
The singer has taken members of her family with her on the tour. They are her 80-year-old mother, her seven-year-old-son, and her husband and manager.
"There is no other way for me right now. I would not consider to do anything without my family. It will be very powerful to discover the world through my son's eyes." - Sapa