From KCRW DJ Tom Schnabel (pictured above with Ariana Morgenstern (far left) and Paul Simon):
Most of you know the “Graceland” CD and its significance. It’s now the 25th anniversary and there’s a film based on Simon’s return to a changed Johannesburg called “Under African Skies”.
What most people don’t know is that we at KCRW had been sending Paul Simon cassette tapes of African bands and South African bands like Ladysmith Black Mambazo during the early 80’s. Roger Steffens, influential co-host (with me) of Morning Goes Makossa, our first African show beginning in 1980 airing Tuesdays 11-12 noon during Morning Becomes Eclectic, knew Simon and was feeding him music.
We sought out and found African records wherever we could get them. You’ll find many of them, often imports from Africa (e.g. Ladysmith LPs issued in South Africa only) in our the vinyl section of our Music Library.
Because of our connection with Simon, when he came to LA on the “Graceland” press tour, the only interview he gave to radio or to print media was on Morning Becomes Eclectic.
I revisited the old cassette, from September 1986, and extracted a sweet part where he talks about the South African musicians coming to New York City — their first plane flight and first time out of apartheid-era South Africa and getting the rock star treatment, including being picked up at JFK by a white limo with a white chauffeur.
Take a listen below.
Read more about the story on my Rhythm Planet blog.
— Tom Schnabel
Editor’s Note: if you want to hear an incredible mix tape of African music, KCRW DJ Mathieu Schreyer has put this together.