Modern life is unimaginable without the music. Within the development of society, the tendency for intercultural fusion may is clearly expressed. It is quite natural that the processes of intercultural interaction find their reflection in the music. The combination of the different musical styles, the different genres, and the mutual impact of the different cultures gives birth to such a notion as world music.
One of the typical examples of these processes is the fact that in recent years American popular music has achieved some peculiar features of African music. And just the other way round, African music has something in common with the American patterns. This mutual dependence has given birth to the variety of the different musical styles that are typical for both cultures. Sometimes it is quite difficult to define to what nation a musical example belongs, as it is the province of the different cultures.
Paul Simon is considered to be the typical representative of world music. His widely-known album Graceland has won international acclaim due to this very intercultural fusion. The general style of the album may be classified as the Worldbeat. This genre represents the mixture of Western pop and rock music with the traditional folk patterns. One of the peculiarities of the album was the fusion of the modern and ethnic components. The album has received many awards in different countries. It had been recognized as the Album of the Year in 1987, and the next year it was given the Grammy Award as the Record of the Year (Paul Simon par.1). Millions of copies of the album have been sold all around the world.
The success was achieved due to the mixture of popular western music and African folk. Later on, in his liner notes for the album, the artist admitted that the idea of the album creation had been inspired by the South African township music. “It sounded like very early rock and roll, black, urban, mid-fifties rock and roll like the great Atlantic tracks from the period” (Feld 241). The general mood of the album is based upon the local styles used by the African musicians, such as the kwela, the mbaqanga, and the township jive (Feld 241). Mbaqanga is one of the most popular styles in South Africa that is famous for its bass and drum rhythms and the usage of the accordion.
During the realization of this project, Simon managed to gather the musicians of different styles. Moreover, many of the musicians involved in the albums creation, were bad in English. Therefore, the definite language gap has been taking place. Sometimes it is hard to believe that such a motley crew has been able to work together, but this very contradiction has predetermined the success of the album.
The combination of the guitar riffs from the Nigerian band players, the vocal from Youssou Ndor, the synthesizer samples and the drum machine patterns from the Everly Brothers – all these factors create the specific atmosphere of the songs of the album.
In spite the combination of the American and African patterns, the South African motives predetermine the general theme of the album. The initial song of the album The Boy in the Bubble is accompanied by the accordion solo. This instrument is traditional for South Africa. In the album, the accordion is also used in the traditional non-African songs.
The accordion playing in this song was performed by the South African band Tao eo Matseka. When Simon was introduced to this band, he was so admired by the unique sound of it that instead of making the studio recording in America he decided to travel to South Africa in order to achieve the original sound.
Apart from its cultural meaning and its contribution to the development of the world music, this album was also a chance for the talented South African musicians to approve themselves. By the time of the album release Paul Simon was the internationally recognized musician being famous by such albums as One-trick Pony and Hearts and Bones. The participation in the project directed by such a famous artist was the honor for the African musicians.
Apart from the South African influence, there are also the songs that are characterized by the prevailing American elements. For instance, such tracks as Under African Skies and Graceland convey the typical American flavor.
The creative work of Paul Simon and especially his album Graceland has contributed the development of world music and the development of art in general. Many researchers define the world beat as the hybrid example of the world music, which is characterized by the fusion of the certain local musical elements and the cosmopolitan features (Turino 335). It is possible to say that the Graceland in a full manner corresponds to this definition. The Simons album is not only a good example of the world music, but it is also the bridge between the different continents and the different cultures.
Feld, Steven 1988, Notes on World Beat. Web.
Turino, Thomas. Nationalists, Cosmopolitans, and Popular Music in Zimbabwe, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Print.
Paul Simon 2015. Web.
Paul Simon’s Music Style