Feeling a little lonely and a lot confused, I decided to seek out an old friend, a dear friend. A lot of friends, really, none of whom I knew. I looked all over and couldn’t find what I was looking for, didn’t seem they sold it anymore but I kept on searching because I was in need. Out of print it seemed, nowhere to be found until I finally found a spot that had a copy of what I sought, a recording with pictures of the Graceland Concert that Paul Simon arranged in Zimbabwe decades ago, with Lady Smith Black Mambazo and Hugh Masekela, Mariam Makeba, and all those people who wanted to sing Graceland along with them. I found it and then got it in the mail and put on my headphones for loud and celebrated the joy of people being together sincerely enjoying the moment together and thinking toward something better someday, a free South Africa and a world more free in which all could play more together, achieve that missing harmony that when experienced gave life a shiny new edge of hope and possibility in dreams.
I paid more than I thought I would for that disc, they usually go for nine or twelve but this one was forty-four and I hesitated a moment before pushing the pay button because I had bought knock-off disks before, nothing near like the original because they had been dubbed and redubbed and the quality rubbed off. But this one worked and the music was, was, was sublime, damn it Paul, masterpiece, beyond, so good, so sweet it swept me off my feet. Rather, it got me on my feet, African beat, Simon songs, Hugh’s horn, Makeba’s voice. She sometimes clicks. How incredible a night that was and how good a thrill it gave me all these years later, in need of something better and I got it.
I saw on iTunes this morning a newly issued video recording of a more recent Simon concert, in Hyde park and though I would rent it and thought better and bought it because, what the hell, how many times have I watched Graceland and been so glad I had?
Downloaded it, sat down on the couch, sweet dog of mine wrapped around my feet, good earphones on my ears and oh my god! Simon songs and Jimmy Cliff, Harder They Come and Many Rivers to Cross and Paul Simon and Jimmy Cliff harmonizing on Simon songs and wow enough and Hugh comes on stage to play horn and then Lady Smith, yes, and the Graceland Band from Africa and I am crying because it is so very fucking good, the songs, the players, the crowd taken up and onward to places unachievable by mortals, that’s what this music did, through the Simon rep and ripping into Graceland and solo Sound of Silence and some more on and on as though there were a heaven and it happened in London one night in Hyde Park.
Call me Al!
I was looking for the video of the concert and wanted it on disc since I do not have a tape player. As for cultural appropriation, my take is that it was an incredible blending of culture by people wishing to produce something unique by it. Simon co-wrote several of the Graceland songs with those who play with him, the African elements contributed by Africans and obviously endorsed by the likes of Marian Makeba and Hugh Masekela and the Lady Smith guys and the women who do back-up.
That’s a great album. I found a used copy recently at Recycled Records for $10. Brought back a flood of great memories. The cultural appropriation criticisms were unfounded (that’s how music evolves after all) even if Simon did get sued for lifting a bit of a Cajun song as I recall.