Hearing is believing! Can’t think of a better introduction than Ladysmith Black Mabazo’s beautiful tribute to Paul Simon in this their song Amphiko Okundiza (Wings To Fly) in which the choir sings,
I love you baby, I love you
I love you baby, I love you
I love you baby, I love you.
“In 1970 a radio broadcast led to their first modest recording contract. Ladysmith might have remained a big fish in the small pond of South Africa’s lively music world were it not for a man they call “Vulindlela,” Zulu for “he who opened the gate.” In 1985, the group got a visit from Paul Simon, who, with partner Art Garfunkel had formed one of America’s top duos during the 1960s and 1970s. As a solo artist, Simon became one of many white Westerners who circled the globe in search of authentic indigenous art forms. Simon took Ladysmith to the big leagues, featuring the group on his 1986 multi-platinum Graceland album and on his 1987 world tour. They thanked him in their song “Wings to Fly,” which described their first meeting with Simon: “a wonderful day, amazing day, marvelous day, nice, nice day.”(Source)
My generation ( some, including me) grew up with Paul Simon’s songs, from the Simon and Garfunkel days of Mrs Robinson which featured in the Dustin Hoffman movie, “The Graduate”
That impeccable Simon & Garfunkel duo also gave us
Mr. Simon branched out on his own and delivered the album PAUL SIMON
(To be continued – must now surrender this computer…
There’s Paul Simon’s “Armistice Day”, “Papa Hobo”and this too at a time when there were anti-war and anti-Vietnam war artists like Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, The Temptations
Nor should we forget the role played by all the exile South African musicians in fighting Apartheid- to name a few, the late Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, the late Dudu Pukwana, the late Chris Mcgregor (and the Brotherhood of Breath) – in Sweden, the late Johnny Mbizo Dyani,the late Mongezi Feza, the late Peter Radise, the late Jeff Cartriers, Brian Isaac, the gentle , meditative Bheki Mseleku, now late, (later moved to London and won fame through his “Celebration”, many others, poets like Wana Makoba, Lefifi Tladi,other writers of their prison diaries such as Molefe Pheto who also passed through Sweden, not to mention people like Bizo (later South Africa’s ambassador to Turkey, and now South Africa’s ambassador to Finland….many significant others I have not mentioned here.
Meanwhile, in South Africa Paul Simon was jamming with Hugh Masekela.
There have been all sorts of experimental attempts at grafting/ merging popular white Western pop Music into its African roots – and when it’s organic, the fusion succeeds – otherwise such attempts whether it’s the kind of dialogue we have when Yehudi Menuhin meets Ravi Shankar or its Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate, if it resonates it’s OK otherwise it turns out to be neti neti
Graceland (1985) Paul Simon’s most popular album to date is good fusion, almost organic although the seasoned ear ( like mine) attuned to all that Soweto Jive and South African Jazz can discern the various distinct spices popping in the Paul Simon’s musical soup. After Graceland many have been making the journey of discovery into South African music proper.
Paul Simon also did the same with South America and West Africa. Should he continue in that vein, he will have to reset his compass to point to the headquarters the CONGO and then set sail. My son Nathan asked me the day before yesterday which was the greatest musical country in Africa and I told him THE CONGO – although after a short discussion we agreed that when it comes to overall quality and diversity NIGERIA is number ONE – everything and everyone is there – apart from Mali, Guinea, Kenya and Senegal….
Graceland was not without controversy and the documentary film Under African Skies tells the story of Mr. Simon travelling to South Africa to break the cultural boycott imposed by the United Nations on the then Apartheid South Africa, in order to make the musical mix now known as Graceland.
The effect of Graceland was enormous. Prior to Graceland, the great anti-Apartheid activist Harry Belafonte had released “Paradise in Gazankulu”, the only problem (no problem at all) was that Mr. Belafonte’s album, musically closer to South African roots, did not enjoy as great a distribution as Mr. Simon’s although it had great songs like “We Are The Wave”, “Skin To Skin”, “Amandla”, “Kwela (Listen To The Man)”,” Monday To Monday”, “Global Carnival”, “Capetown “, “ Sisiwami (Sweet Sister) “, “Move It”. Harry Belafonte’s contributions to the anti-Apartheid struggle should not and can not be underestimated – it was after all Harry Belafonte who received Madiba Nelson Mandela when Madiba visited the United States.( As we recall, the first country that Madiba Nelson Mandela visited after his release from his 29 year stint at Robben Island, was Sweden in early in 1990 to see his friend Oliver Tambo the ANC’s No.2 man who was then undergoing medical treatment at Ersta Hospital in S
Dayan Ha Emet….just got the news that Brother John Dill has passed on….
( Paul Simon appreciation , to be continued….later…
Just because you’ve heard “Mother and Child reunion” doesn’t mean that you’ve heard all the reggae.
It’s difficult talking about music, even regionally – people still think that Oscar Patterson and Joni Mitchell are Americanos but they are Canadians ( The difference in their accents may not be that great, but Canadian tourists in London and Stockholm were particularly annoyed about being mistaken for Americans during the anti-Vietnam war years.)
Similarly, having said CONGO – and this is indisputable because the Congo has colonised the rest of Africa – including Somalia and Sudan, musically, so you could hear some stuff from Gabon and think it’s Congolese especially if it is sung in Lingala or Swahili.
As we all know, musical influences easily spill over borders – and next door to the Congo we have ANGOLA another mighty musical nation.
You say CONGO Numero uno and you probably have Manu Dibango jumping up and asking “WHAT ABOUT CAMEROON?
And a few other voices chirping “What about Cape Verde?”
The Ghana people of course getting hysterical about Highlife and bragging about the Akan drumming…
Robert Mugabe will be pointing at the Shona people and holding a lecture for his good friends Tony Blair and Peter Hain, about the the virtues of the Mbira and Zimbabwe
Even little Gambia will be holding up the Kora!
PS 3: N.B.
(I was slipping into the more familiar language territory known as Swe-english ( the only kind of English that Sven understands) Sven’s engelska more popularly spoken and understood as Svengelska ( a special language in the department of Modern Languages ). I was thinking of the very heavy Swedish word “ enormt” when I wrote, “The effect of Graceland was enormous.”
And so, from time to time it is healthy to take a dip into saucy Swedish vocabulary. It’s like taking a dip in the Bosphorus followed by some raki and all the pleasant things that the wise ones bring on a nice midsummer’s day in heaven…
Bob D asks and answers:
“You ever seen a ghost?
No, but you have heard of them”
In these sad times, a frightening thought: Could what’s happening in Syria ever happen in a Mahdist Iran?
” I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul…