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Ever wonder how Paul Simon got hooked up with the South African musicians who contributed such a core part of Graceland's sound? 

Looking for inspiration, Simon became increasingly obsessed with a cassette recording of “township jive” music from South Africa that a friend had given him. Simon was particularly struck by a track called “Gumboots” that had been recorded by the Boyoyo Boys, a group of sax, guitar, bass, and drum musicians who played mbaqanga music in and around Soweto. The music reminded Simon of 1950s R&B, and he asked his record company to get him in touch with the Boyoyo Boys to see if they’d be interested in collaborating.

This wasn’t an easy request for Warner Brothers to honor. Starting in 1961, South Africa’s apartheid government had been subjected to a cultural boycott begun by the British Musicians Union. Managed by the UN Center Against Apartheid, the boycott prohibited artists worldwide from collaborating with South African musicians, and it maintained an influential blacklist against artists who performed in South Africa.

Check out the full story—it’s long, but good!—at Co. Design and Design Mind. The cut above is “You Can Call Me Al”—enjoy Simon’s hand gestures and motions, as clearly he has no idea how to perform without a guitar in hand.

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