Remember Paul Simon’s song and album Graceland?  When the album came out in the late 80ies I spent hours and hours dancing to the music, being charmed by the weird and wonderful lyrics, transported and gripped by the rhythms, the blend of white and black, the pulse, the magic.

Then last night I had the opportunity to see Under African Skies, a kaleidoscopic documentary about the 25th anniversary reunion concert that happened last year, with many of the original musicians.  What a trip!

Here’s the image on the album cover.  If you liked it too, we’re in good company.  It’s one of Whoopee Goldberg’s faves, Oprah says it’s her all time # 1 pick,  and it’s rated 71 in the Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time!

The documentary deals in part with the huge controversy that Simon’s trip to South Africa raised among anti-apartheid activists.  It was a moving reminder of that era — Nelson Mandela imprisoned, then freed after 27 years, the success of the sanctions, the insidiousness of racial attitudes, and ultimately, regime change.

The reconciliation at the end of the film between Simon and, Dali Tambo, a leader of the Artists Against Apartheid movement was gratifying.  We still have painful racial challenges today, at home, around the world, and I deeply admire the courage and commitment of those involved in the late 1980s in South Africa.  May we take inspiration and heart from their work.

But it was the musical part of the film that got my heart and feet moving!   We had a chance to see the musicians 25 years ago, Simon but a youngster! and then to enjoy the groups’ recent comments, reflections, and memories of those vibrant, magical jam sessions, groovin’ together in the studio, then, and now, as they created a modern version of the album. Wow, I couldn’t sit still!

Then I got out my CD this morning and the booming bass, the infectious rhythms, the provocative, funky lyrics enchanted me all over again. “These are the days of miracles and wonders…medicine is magical and magical is art, the Boy in the Bubble and the baby with the baboon heart..”  “These are the roots of rhythm and the roots of rhythm remain.”

That’s what lasts for me — how deeply rhythmic we are, how we are touched, moved, enlivened, opened-up by music, by rhythm, by movement, by dance…how it ranscends race, culture, how it unites, bonds, frees, uplifts us.  These are indeed memorable moments and momentous miracles!

I invite you to listen to, move with, the incredible acapella group Ladysmith Black Mombazo, powerful and beauteous Miriam Makeba singing Under African Skies, and the many other magnificent musicians on Graceland. Here’s a piece in the Huffington Post about the significance and impact of the album, the music, the musicians.   Catch the documentary if you possibly can.

Let Graceland stand for the land of Grace, the state of Grace, the possibility of Grace.  Let’s all join with Paul in his chorus in the title song when he says, “I have reason to believe, we all will be received in Graceland.”   Amen!

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, and growth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Your feedback is most welcome.



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