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Paul Simon On Making 'Graceland'

Paul Simon with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1987.
Luise Gibb
Courtesy of the artist
Paul Simon with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1987.

Paul Simon's 1986 album Gracelandmarked an unprecedented intersection of music, culture and politics. In a conversation with World Cafe's David Dye — presented here in four parts — Simon speaks candidly about his legendary collaborations with South African musicians such as Joseph Shabalala and his vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Simon's growing interest in South African music in the Apartheid era served as the main inspiration for Graceland; to achieve an authentic sound, he opted to record the album there with local musicians. Simon says the move allowed him to escape pressure from the music industry to create "hits," and instead focus on his songwriting craft.

Though Simon was welcomed by many South African musicians and the Musicians Union, he says he encountered a hostile reception outside the studio — and experienced widespread criticism when the album was released in America. Still, Simon says that Graceland, while not overtly political in content, serves as a musical expression of anti-Apartheid sentiment.

These segments were produced with Paul Chuffo & Joshua Jackson of Joyride Media.

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