Paul Simon – Graceland

USA, 1986, pop rock / singer-songwriter

This is an old favorite. Such a fun, bright album. Mbaqanga, Mbube, Zydeco, and Soukous are the four African-based musical traditions featured here, two of them finding their origins in South Africa, whereas the other two developed more in the Americas as African immigrants and slaves brought their music with them. I’m not going to get political here, but I can’t help but wonder how much this album helped Western (white) ears tune into sounds beyond their borders. Clearly music aficionados are always listening outside their cultural experience, but this album seemed to bring African music to the forefront in the popular American consciousness. It was a big thing to do in the 80s.

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