Two Worlds United

Paul Simon

Last week we saw the release of a movie at the Sundance Film Festival as one of the major music stories. Why? The documentary “Under African Skies” is a film that followed Paul Simon’s trip back to South Africa twenty-five years after the “Graceland” album. Amazingly it has been twenty-five years since the groundbreaking album was released to music lovers worldwide. I have always really appreciated Paul Simon’s music. And the Graceland album is still one of my MP3 favorites. In viewing the trailer for the movie I was reminded about the controversy surrounding the recording and release of the album. Remember in 1986 the anti-apartheid movement was in full force and South Africa was changing rapidly. Many leaders of the movement felt that Simon’s efforts to use South African musicians would stunt the growth of changes.  In addition, the United Nations had imposed a cultural boycott of South Africa also in an effort to end apartheid.  Then there were many who applauded Paul Simon for his actions in bringing South African musicians to the international musical forefront. After years of a review of events I can honestly understand why both sides felt passionate about their positions.  But I also think that “Graceland” needed to be created. It’s understandable that music has historically influenced political movements and/or events. However, politics should not influence music or musical events. When that happens it means some music becomes less accessible to all of us.  As I said before, Graceland had to be created.  We were introduced to a super talented group of instrumental musicians called Stimela, and a fantastic a capella vocal group named Ladysmith Black Mambazo. When Paul Simon performed with the South African musicians the audiences could not get enough. I still remember the night “Graceland” won the Grammy award for best album feeling chills watching as Joseph Shabalala (Ladysmith Black Mambazo) cheered on as Paul Simon accepted the award.  I had more chills viewing the two videos attached and watching the Zimbabwe audience react to the music from Simon the American, along with the South African musicians. Yes, twenty-five years ago two worlds did unite to appreciate one album, “Graceland”.

We would love to hear your opinion