These are the days of miracle and wonder, indeed. “Under African Skies” is a joyful and exuberant documentary which celebrates the 25th anniversary of Paul Simon’s universally acclaimed album, “Graceland.”
Graceland, an instant international cultural milestone, was remarkable for its masterful fusion of American and African pop music. Not only is there the excellent (nay, amazing!) music to celebrate, but also the personal and political triumphs of the black majority in South Africa.
25 years ago, amidst full-scale Apartheid and international calls for boycott, Simon went to the country to expose their beautiful rhythms and harmonies to the world.
The film follows Simon back to South Africa where he reunites with the original band to celebrate their anniversary. As they prepare for a reunion concert, band members Simon and a host of today’s living music geniuses (Paul McCartney, David Byrne and Quincy Jones among them) look back on the turbulent times in which the album was conceived.
The insidiousness and the scope of the nauseating racism of the Apartheid regime is perhaps best captured when one band member relates that before Simon hugged him on stage in 1987, he had never touched a white man before.
Good tunes is good tunes—and the power of music to bring people together has been proven over and over again. “Under African Skies” is a nice reminder.