It was a dream, activated through social media and realised on a big festival stage … yet they did it, Bwani Junction together with some of the legends of the original Graceland recordings, did it. They relived the dream and revived the spirit of Graceland – a land of grace where unity is.
Unity was achieved through music. Graceland was a musical project that broke the political stranglehold of “separation”. It took an American maestro, Paul Simon to defy local and global opinion and travel to South Africa to meet and play with South African musicians.
The beautiful documentary film on this visit showcases the great bravery of Paul Simon. However apartheid is long dead and Graceland lives on.
“Paul Simon gave Africans an opportunity to showcase to the world and break the circle of apartheid.” Barney Rachabane
With the Braveheart spirit of Paul Simon, it was fitting that the Scottish rock band Bwani Junction, festival Celtic Connection, supporters and audiences were behind the revival of Graceland.
Even though there were 40 South African musicians on the original Graceland recordings in New York, London, Los Angeles, Louisiana and South Africa, Bwani Junction cherry picked two of the maestro's who have kept the flame of the Graceland era alive – saxophonists Barney Rachabane and Morris Goldberg.
Father of the Scottish guitarist and an African music manager, Gordon Muir inspired his son's rock band Bwani Junction to keep an ear to the sounds of Africa. The band decided to cover the Graceland album in its entirety.
BBC noted, “The group recruited a local horn section and veteran accordionist Phil Cunningham and played a stop-gap gig last July at a small Edinburgh club. It was heard by Celtic Connections director Donald Shaw who there and then offered a reprise of the performance at the 2016 festival in Glasgow.”
Gordon offers a review of the 2016 show, writing from Scotland :
'When a relatively unknown Scottish indie-rock band invited South Africa saxophone legends Barney Rachabane and Morris Goldberg to join them for a show in Glasgow it seemed an offer unlikely to be accepted. When it was then revealed that the gig was to be the band's interpretation of Paul Simon's 30-year old 'Graceland' album, for which they would be reunited with some of the other original musicians, it became a more tempting proposition.
So, on Saturday night, at a sold-out show (part of the prestigious 'Celtic Connections' festival), Morris and Barney, accompanied by his daughter Octavia, took to the stage with Bwani Junction and some of the other 'originals', who thrilled the audience with a unique and highly accomplished version of this classic album.
Playing to over fifteen hundred people at the Old Fruitmarket, Barney and Morris traded licks for the first time in 28 years, their virtuosity dazzling the enthusiastic crowd, who quickly realised they were witnessing something very special. The members of Bwani Junction had certainly done their homework, and the seamless combination of young and not-so-young was joy to behold, with every song yielding something memorable.
Playing the entire album in track order, Octavia Rachabane then took centre stage with a Miriam Makeba medley, which lifted the roof when her father and Morris started a four-minute solo, exchanging soaring riffs like boxers in the ring - Glasgow was in raptures.
Finishing off the show with an encore version of 'You Can Call Me Al', Morris Goldberg's famous penny-whistle solo was cheered to the rafters, and the evening concluded with the unlikely cast of musicians taking a well deserved bow - a night quickly being hailed as one of the festival highlights. Rumours circulate that the show may be repeated in South Africa later this year - let's hope so!'
Barney and Octavia went to the studio the following day and laid down some parts on a fantastic sounding song called 'Drivin' into the City'. It had previously been about an imagined drive into LA from the projects, but is now about coming from Soweto into Joburg!!!!
Driving to the studio in Edinburgh - Barney instantly identified with our sense of humour, and was just like one of the lads. Octavia is also amazing: a sensational, rich, smoky voice, and a measured patience and tenacity that was admired by everyone.