Monday, June 3, 2013

"Under African Skies"

This film is about Paul Simon's collaboration with South African musicians to make his album "Graceland" and reuniting with them twenty-five years later. But it's also about the power of art to endure beyond politics and the human connections that occur with music. Music can touch hearts on a deep level.

I didn't expect to be so moved by this film, but I was. Maybe partly because I have some memories with the music- I remember listening to a few songs repeatedly from "Graceland" as a kid, probably on cassette. My mom's a Paul Simon fan. I also have memories of hanging out at home, being lazy on a Sunday, hearing Ladysmith Black Mambazo CDs that my parents would often play.

Aside from my personal memories, there's something moving to me about artists connecting with one another, collaborating and looking right past politics, race, gender, cultural background, even language, to make beauty together. And then to share it with the world- besides a successful cross-cultural collaboration, "Graceland" was a huge commercial success.

One of the scenes that really got to me when they play Saturday Night Live. The album hadn't been released so nobody had heard any of the music, but the audience went totally crazy. They knew immediately that there was something special there. They loved it.

As a very picky consumer of music now, some of Paul Simon's Western musical style doesn't do much for me personally- I find rock structure and convention pretty boring, but I loved the African elements of the music. Of course Paul Simon deserves full credit and praise for doing this crazy "Graceland" album, for putting it all together despite a difficult political environment on top of the regular work of art. And I also realize that the folk/rock is his contribution, just as Ladysmith contributed their beautiful singing. That's what he does, even if it's not my favorite aspect.

Anyway, great film!

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