Chapter 4 Graceland (1986): World Music Collaboration
The 1980s was a particularly contradictory time in South African history. In one sense, the 1980s was the most repressive decade of the 20th century, with numerous ‘states of emergency’ declared by the apartheid government. In another sense, however, we can see in retrospect that the aggressivity with which the apartheid goverment acted in the 1980s was illustrative of the anxiety of a dying regime. Local and international pressure reached an all time peak in the 1980s, and ultimately Nationalist Party president F.W. De Klerk was forced to ‘negotiate’ a settlement with Nelson Mandela in the early 1990s.
It is also important to observe that while the apartheid regime was particularly aggressive in the 1980s, there was enough pressure on the regime from both outside and within the country that performances by mixed groups became possible. Although constantly in danger of being arrested, groups such as Johnny Clegg's Jaluka and Mango Groove achieved considerable success.
The cultural boycott: A brief history
- 1946: American Actors Equity discouraged members from working in South Africa
- 1947: India initiates first (official) boycott against South Africa
- 1950s: Father Trevor Huddleston called for boycott in 1950s and achieved international media attention
- 1960: Sharpeville Massacre, in which many black South Africans were killed or injured for protesting against pass books (of the 180 injured by bullets, only 30 had been shot in the front) raised international awareness of the plight of black people in South Africa
- Late 1950s and early 1960s: Equity, British Actor's Union, and British Musician's Union did not allow members to perform in South Africa in the 1960s
- 1960s: Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Luthuli (who was a black South African) invoked United Nations Organization principles to call for an even larger boycott
- 1965: 65 actors and performers pledged not to perform in South Africa. The list included primarily African Americans, including Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Nina Simone
- 1969: UN encouraged member states to suspend all ties with South Africa
- 1975–1976: When television was introducted to South Africa no British shows were broadcast because of the cultural boycott
- Early 1980s: UN declare that they will blacklist any entertainer going to South Africa
Paul Simon and the boycott
- Paul Simon's trip to South Africa in the mid 1980s broke the terms of the cultural boycott
- Simon had not received permission from either the UN or the African National Congress to enter South Africa
- Many international observers feared that Simon's blatant disregard for the boycott might may undermine the anti-apartheid movement
Artists Against Apartheid
- In 1979, South African business man Sol Kerzner opened Sun City, a casino and entertainment center, in the ‘homeland’ of Bophutatswana.
- International performers were lured to Sun City with the promise that Sun City was not part of South Africa, and so was not bound by the terms of the international boycott
- However, Sun City was simply a ‘bantustan’ and was largely controlled by the South African government
- In order to create awareness that Sun City was, in fact, simply a ‘bantustan’ of South Africa, Brith and American musicians (headed by Little Steven) produced the music video Sun City: Artists Against Apartheid, and several other recordings to aid in the anti-apartheid movement.
Songs connected to the Artists Against Apartheid movement included:
- Peter Gabriel, Biko
- Youssou N'dour, Nelson Mandela
- Miles Davis, Tutu
- Peter, Paul, and Mary, No Easy Walk to Freedom (autobiography: Long Walk to Freedom)
- Stevie Wonder, It's Wrong (Apartheid)
Note that Sun City was issued in 1985, the same year that Paul Simon quietly traveled to South Africa to record with South African musicians.
Rhythm of Resistance
- In the late 1970s Jeremy Marre traveled to South Africa to make a documentary film about South African music for BBC called Rhythm of Resistance: Black South African Performance
- Marre's agenda in Rhythm of Resistance was clearly to expose the hidden forms of street and studio performance of black South Africa, labeled ‘tribal’ music, that were used by performers and their audiences as acts of resistance to apartheid
- Ladysmith Black Mambazo was featured in Marre's film
- Paul Simon claimed that this documentary inspired him to go to South Africa to work with local musicians
- Marre later produced a documentary about the Graceland album. Clips from Rhythm of Resistance were inserted into this later documentary.
Interracial groups in the late 1970s and 1980s
- White South African Johnny Clegg and black migrant worker Sipho Mchunu formed Juluka in the late 1970s. Juluka performed mainly maskanda music and achieved considerable fame both locally and internationally in the 1980s.
- The interracial group Mango Groove integrated the pre-Grand Apartheid sounds of kwela and marabi. Made up of both black and white musicians, Mango Groove was led by the blonde haired and blue eyed singer Claire Johnson.
- Formed in the 1950s, the popular group the African Jazz Pioneers reformed in the 1980s as an interracial music group.
Also relevant here is the thirteen-part documentary video series African Wave: South African Music and its Influences.
- There are three main themes in this series:
- market cross-over;
- covering and borrowing;
- the significance of Graceland to the musicians in the videos.
- Another important aspect of African Wave: Countering the separate development/apartheid images of South African performances under apartheid, this series stresses the “multicultural music of South Africa, its major musicians, and the traditional and contemporary influences that color their work”. Here is it worthwhile to point out what cultural studies scholars in South Africa have called ‘entanglement’. For, contrary to what is sometimes believed, even during the most repressive years of apartheid there was still much interaction between various races and ethnicities. Whether this took the form of a ‘maid’ or gardener working in a white person's house, or a farm laborer working alongside his/her white boss, ‘apartheid’ clearly did not entirely separate people physically. While the aim of apartheid was certainly ‘apart-ness’, such segregation was clearly not possible in such a multi-racial and multi-ethnic country.
Musicians on the Graceland album (not a complete list):
- South African musicians on the Graceland album:
- Ladysmith Black Mambazo (led by Joseph Shabalala)
- Ray Phiri (guitar)
- Morris Goldberg (pennywhistle)
- Makhaya Mahlangu (percussion)
- General MD Shirinda and the Gaza Sisters (vocals)
- Forere Motloheloa (accordion)
- Boyoyo Boys
- Other musicians on the Graceland album:
- Rockin' Dopsie and the Twisters (Cajun zydeco musicians)
- Los Lobos (a Chicano Rock band)
- Everly Brothers
- Demola Adepoju (Nigerian pedal steel guitarist)
- Youssou N'dour (Senegalese singer)
General notes on Graceland:
- The album Graceland and Graceland: The African Tour included different musicians (supposedly for logistical reasons).
- The Graceland album was the result of numerous studio recordings creating multiple tracks of sound that were then combined to create the single texture.
- Graceland the album was recorded Johannesburg, New York, Los Angeles, and London.
- People have criticized the Graceland project, arguing that the South African musicians were not properly credited for their creative contribution.
- In Marre's video about Graceland, Simon talks not as musician but as producer, shifting the idea of musical collaboration to one where he and his engineer collected raw materials in South Africa that required refinement for the popular market.
The two Gracelands — 1986, and the 1996 reissue:
- In the original 1986 issue, the cover is a photographic image of Paul Simon leaning against a wall. In the 1996 reissue, however, the more ‘African’ image (an Ethiopian print of King George on a horse) is moved to the front cover.
- In the original 1996 reissue, the liner notes undermine the idea that Graceland is an American masterpiece created by Paul Simon, and instead offer a politically informed story that relates Graceland to South African music and political history, placing Paul Simon into that archive.
Jeremy Marre's documentary film Paul Simon: Graceland, Recounting the Journey of a Legendary Album (1998) was produced in the post-apartheid period and is framed within a 1990s discourse of cultural production (which mirrors the 1996 reissue of the Graceland album). There is a shift from viewing Third World musicians as sources of inspiration (the mid-1980s) to viewing them as co-creaters (the 1990s).
A chronology of the Graceland album:
- During a creative slump in 1984, Paul Simon listened for a few weeks to copy of Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits, II.
- Simon really enjoyed the music, and asked his label Warner Brothers to locate the source of cassette.
- Warner Brothers made contact with Hilton Rosenthal in Johannesburg, who sent more recordings of South African music to Warner Brothers.
- Rosenthal set up recording date with Simon and three groups: Tao Ea Matsekha, General MB Shirinda and the Gaza Sisters, and the Boyoyo Boys.
- Simon and his sound engineer Roy Halee traveled to South Africa in 1985 to record with the groups organized by Rosenthal.
- Simon sent letter to Joseph Shabalala (leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo) with some musical ideas.
- Ladysmith Black Mambazo traveled to London to record with Paul Simon.
- Simon returned to New York and invited Nigerian pedal steel guitarist Demola Adepoju and Senegalese singer Youssou N'dour, to record rhythmic and vocal tracks that would be dubbed into the recording mix.
- Release of the album was postponed from the Summer until the Fall of 1986.
- Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Soweto Rhythm Section traveled to New York in order to appear on Saturday Night Live. On that trip, they went into a studio and recorded Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes with Paul Simon.
- The Graceland album was released in the Fall of 1986.
Boy in the Bubble
- Opens with accordion solo, then drums enter.
- Guitar, drums, accordion, and bass are inspired by Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits, II, the cassette that originally inspired Paul Simon to go to South Africa.
- On Paul Simon: Graceland, Recounting the Journey of a Legendary Album, sound engineer Roy Halee says of the opening seconds of Graceland: “It began so unusually, and the sound of those drums sounded so ‘African’. It was really an announcement that said you haven't hear[sic] this before…”
- Lyrics talk of a center and its distant constellation, a “long distance call,” urging listeners to think globally to “lasers in the jungle.”
- Most authentically ‘South African’ in its sound.
- Opens with call-and-response.
- Vocal sounds common in iscathamiya: ‘rrrp rrrp shek shek.’
- Use of ululation.
- Clicks in word ‘omanqoba’ (on the letter ‘q’).