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Immediately prior to the release of his “Graceland” album,
Paul Simon’s career was allegedly at a low point. However,
“Graceland” sold quite well. Its mix of styles, including
African music, firmly returned Simon to the musical map.
Shortly thereafter, he decided to take both the music and his
African collaborators on the road. “Paul Simon: Graceland –
The African Concert,” is a film from that tour.

This film was originally shot during 1987 in Zimbabwe, before a
racially mixed audience, and was released on VHS the following
year. At that time, Apartheid laws and practices were still in force
in South Africa, and this “Graceland” concert was thus considered
to be a political statement, along with a plea for freedom
and goodwill.

This concert is now available on DVD, and consists of 18 numbers.
Paul Simon’s songs, such as “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,”
are interspersed here with African songs, including “Jinkel E Maweni,”
by Miriam Makeba. In fact, Simon frequently relinquished the stage
to the African musicians, such as the male chorus, Ladysmith Black
Mambazo, and trumpeter/flugelhornist, Hugh Masekela. When Simon
sang and played his acoustic guitar, he often did so as a member of a
large ensemble.  Both Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela were
political exiles from South Africa; therefore, an emotionally charged
atmosphere prevailed throughout the concert.

I couldn’t help being “drawn in” by this positive music, pouring
forth from the stage with a strong message of hope. Although a
subtitle option was provided on this disc, I neglected to use it.
Therefore, I was unable to read the translations of lyrics from the
music that was performed in some of the South African languages.
Interspersed with many of these performances were scenes of
South African daily life and the natural wonders of this country’s
landscape.

“Paul Simon: Graceland – The African Concert” is great for those
who wish to broaden their horizons beyond the orbit of “Western”
music, and Paul Simon was a tasteful and generous Master of
Ceremonies. Considering that this DVD was transferred from a
1980’s VHS tape, the sound and video quality were quite acceptable.
While there are no bonus features on this 89-minute disc, it is a
nice snapshot of Musical/Political History circa 1987, and is
recommended.

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