The generosity of the interweb never ceases to amaze me. One day you’re drooling over the trailer for an Emmy-nominated documentary about the making of Paul Simon’s Graceland, and the next thing you know, the whole enchilada is streaming for free [link fixed]. Hot damn!
News that Under African Skies is available for all the world to see only hit yesterday, so I haven’t yet had a chance to watch it, but doing so is at the top of my to-do list this weekend. Getting a glimpse of how an iconic album was made is reason enough to tune in (Can you still use the expression “tune in” when talking about a streaming video? I feel old just just thinking about it.), but I’m especially looking forward to learning more about the socio-political side of Simon’s trip to Apartheid-era South Africa. It’s mind-boggling to think that in making this astoundingly beautiful piece of art, Simon was taking a significant risk, crossing a picket line of sorts to collaborate with musicians who wanted their music to be heard despite the cultural boycott that was in place at the time. I still don’t understand it, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to get a more complete version of the story.
I’m also jazzed up because this news gives me the perfect opportunity to post a track I’ve been dying to share since I first heard it while running with my iPod on shuffle. One of the bonus tracks on the 25th anniversary edition of Graceland is a version of “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” that isolates just the bass and vocals, shining a klieg light on bassist Bakithi Kumalo’s contribution. It’s a performance that seems impossibly good, with its hypnotizing melodic runs and forceful and flawless execution, making it seem less like a track laid down by a human being in a studio than a fact — something that was waiting to take place since the Big Bang set the cosmic pool balls in motion. Hearing this amazing bass line in isolation caused its humanity to come rushing back, and with that came a renewed appreciation for its sophistication and, well, grace.
Check out both original and stripped down versions below, see the trailer for Under African Skies above, and click here to watch the whole hour-and-forty-minute documentary [link fixed].