August 01, 2011
By Diane Coetzer, Johannesburg
Before a small gathering of people at a studio in the depths of South Africa’s national broadcaster SABC, Paul Simon revisited the magic of his 1986 Grammy Award winning record, Graceland.
Dedicating the short concert to the late South African singer Miriam Makeba, Simon was joined on stage by most of the original players on Graceland, which sold over 14 million copies following its release
This included guitarist Ray Phiri (who was also an arranger on the original recording), New York-based bassist Bakithi Khumalo, and Vusi Khumalo and Isaac Mtshali, alternating on drums. Also present for signature songs “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and “Homeless” was Ladysmith Black Mambazo, with leader Joseph Shabalala – adding to the emotional impact of the short show.
Simon described the 11-song performance as something “between a rehearsal and a concert”. “It’s a great joy to be reunited after so many years,” Simon said. “When I landed in South Africa, it felt like I was coming home. It’s such a nice feeling.”
The performance was filmed as part of a documentary Simon is making on Graceland. Details of the film have not yet been released but according to sources it is in partnership with one of the cable networks.
Among the songs performed and recorded last night were ‘I Know What I Know”, “The Boy in the Bubble”, “Crazy Love”, “Diamonds on the Soles Of Her Feet” and “You Can Call Me Al”.
Contributing to last night’s show was veteran South African performer, Hugh Masekela who took center stage with a rendition of his songs, “Grazing In The Grass” and ‘Stimela”. Simon paid tribute to the trumpeter and songwriter, along with South African artist Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse and producer Koloi Lebona for their role in putting together the Graceland project during the height of the repressive South African apartheid regime.
Originally released on Warner in 1986, a reissue of Graceland will come through Sony Legacy to mark its 25th anniversary. The label has not yet revealed details.