Hectic City 15 – Paths To Graceland

The Graceland Tape
Image borrowed from Paul Simon’s Twitter feed.

Direct download links: MP3 or FLAC

WARNING: Long read ahead. I’d be delighted and honoured if you didn’t TL;DR me, simply hit play above and read on down the page – pretend it’s a Sunday paper or something… As always there’s an interesting story behind the mix.

The temptation to call this mix “Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits, Volume 2” was huge, but it would be misleading.

By way of explanation, if you google “Gumboots: Accordion Jive Hits, Volume 2”, you may well be surprised at the number of results. A popular record, you might think; well known and discussed. But try to find a copy, and you’ll while away a day or more clicking from site to site around the world, maybe chancing upon “Greatest Accordian Jive Hits, Volume 3” or even “Sax & Accordion Jive Hits, Volume 1“. But Volume 2? Not a sniff.

The “Gumboots” album, should you be unaware, has been awarded it’s place in history due to a cassette copy which found its way into Paul Simon’s car stereo sometime in 1984-85 and providing him with the initial inspiration to seek out (and eventually travel to South Africa to record with) the musicians playing on the album. An occurence that has been documented virtually every time the story of “Graceland”s creation has been told, over the course of thousands of interviews, several documentaries, and now again with the release of a 25th anniversary edition and an accompanying tour with Simon reuniting on stage with many of the original album’s participants.

Jive Hits 1So, considering the legacy of “Gumboots”, one would imagine any music-minded enterpreneurial soul, or even Gallo, the label that allegedly released the original album, would jump at the chance to re-issue such inspirational recordings and make a few bucks off the back of the multi-million selling “Graceland”. Standard form for the music industry, indeed, but in this case, nothing.

(I say Gallo allegedly released it, but as no-one I’m aware of has actually seen a copy of the album, and as repeated enquiries to the label from a multitude of Paul Simon fans have gone unanswered, no-one’s entirely sure.)

To further confound the investigation, from information given in interviews by Simon and other musicians, only one track on the original tape is actually identifiable. The “title” track, “Gumboots”, lent it’s music lock stock and barrel to become the backing track of Paul Simon’s song, also titled “Gumboots” on the finished album. Indeed it’s not difficult to imagine Simon driving around singing his prototype vocal melodies and lyrics over the bouncing mbaqanga groove.

But was the original tune actually called “Gumboots”? or did Simon just use the title scratched on the cassette as an identifier? You can see one side of the actual tape above – does it have “Gumboots” written on the other side? (It’s rather doubtful the tape came with a tracklist, as any car-driving cassette fan would understand.) There’s certainly no mention of Gumboots in the lyrics. Further Simon interview comments reveal the track originally involved The Boyoyo Boys, yet any online search for “Gumboots” by The Boyoyo Boys brings back, yup, you guessed it, thousands of results for the phantom “Gumboots Accordion Jive Hits Volume Two” album. Another dead end.

Furthermore, one would imagine somewhere along the assembly of the two very large scale re-issues of the album, someone involved might think to seek out at least this individual recording and add it to the album as a bonus track. But no, nothing.

Indeed, very little previously unheard music has been added to the original album by way of bonus material on these re-issues, despite co-producer Roy Halee’s assertion that there was more than enough material generated during the initial sessions at Ovation studios in Johannesburg: “You should hear some of the out-takes. Even today, there could be two instrumental albums consisting of those fabulous grooves.”

It’s also known, through “Graceland”s writing credits and investigation of the wealth of documentary evidence, that at least two more of the albums tracks are based on presumably pre-existing music – On “I Know What I Know” Simon shares the writing credit with M.D. Shrinda, and on “The Boy In The Bubble”, he shares it with accordion player Forere Motloheloa (part of Tau ea Matsekha, the Lesotho group responsible for the “Bubble” backing track). Although no original titles have surfaced for the music that formed part of these songs, I’ve located what I consider to be reasonably close matches, and included them on this mix.

Jive Hits 1I’ve also included at least a handful of tracks that have surprisingly close links with riffs and melodies used on Graceland, and many, many other excellent tracks that could (and should) be considered forebears of “The Big G”. Note that I’m not making any claims of plagiarism (like I would dare!), simply demonstrating the common trading and development of grooves, basslines, horn, guitar, accordion and vocal riffs that took place between musicians at the time in both South Africa and Lesotho, and still takes place today, I hope.

As for the mysterious “Gumboots” instrumental? With no confirmation of the orginal title, and very patchy availability of The Boyoyo Boys back catalogue, it’s proved impossible to locate. I’ve included a track on the mix that The Boys recorded with Lulu Masilela (co-writer of “Gumboots” as it appears on “Gracelands”) which I consider to be it’s closest locatable relative.

I refuse to delve deeper into the discussion about whether the writing credits on “Graceland” are fair – Indeed amongst Simon’s catalogue “Graceland” is rare in the number of songwriting credits shared – proof that, for once, he was certainly not shy of demonstrating, and remunerating, the collaborative effort involved in producing the finished work.

More importantly, I must thank Paul, who, alongside sterling work by broadcasters John Peel and Andy Kershaw, both promoting similar music at the same time, opened up a new musical world to the young me, giving South African music far more of a UK (and worldwide) audience than it had previously enjoyed, and paving the way for many artists to bring that music out into the world. Also, in my opinion, he made a truly great album that, by blending his New York lyricism with another continent’s grooves, gave my young ears a taste of what marvels can be accomplished when different styles of music collide.

Ethiopian art

01a Tau Ea Lesotho – Nyatsi Tloha Pela’ka
01b Tau Ea Lesotho – Puleng
01c Puseletso Seema & Tau Ea Linare – He O Oe Oe!
02 Mahotella Queens – Umculo Kawupheli
03 The Rainbows – Mashonisa
04 Soul Brothers – Bayeza
05 Dark City Sisters – Ezomculo
06 M.D. Shirinda & The Gaza Sisters – Pfuka N’wavolo
07 Abafana Baseqhudeni – Mubi Umakhelwane
08 Mgababa Queens – Maphuthi
09 Zorro Five – Barcarolle
10 Amazulu Queens – Sankatana
11 Marks Mankwane – Khupa Marama No. 2
12 Naledi Boys – Bump Again
13 Ebrahim Isaacs – Meadowlands
14 John Amutabi Nzenze – Angelike Twist
15 Queue Sisters – Ethembeni
16 Spokes Mashiyane – Kalla’s Special
17 Soul Of The City – Hustle Bump!
18 J.K. Mayengani & The ShingWedzi Sisters – Khubani
19 Mahlathini & Izintombi Zomgqashiyo – Okwamadoda Kuya Bhikwa
20 Izintombi Zodumo – Mississippi River
21 Sannah Mnguni Nesimanjemanje – Ukhulupheka
22 Lulu Masilela & The Boyoyo Boys – Small Time No.4
23 Tempo All Stars – Take Off
24 Paulus Masina – Umalusi
25 Intombi Zephepha – Ingoina Le Nyathi
26 Mgababa Queens – Akulaiwa Esoweto
27 Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens – Bophumthwalo
28 Izintombi Zesi Manje Manje – Awufuni Ukulandela Na
29 African Symphonics – Zulu Roll
30 Kings Messengers Quartet – My Lord

Ethiopian art detail
Images of Ethiopian art, as used on Graceland artwork, borrowed from The Peabody Essex Museum.

Compiler’s note: One of the most appealing yet frustrating characteristics of this music is it’s timelessness, both in arrangement and recording quality. I say frustrating, as it’s tough to tell the difference between an archive 1950s recording, a rather expensive studio recording from 1968 and a lo-fi shed studio recording from 1980, especially considering sound quality alterations due to poor quality vinyl, cassette-to-cassette dubbing and yes, a modern layer of MP3 encoding.

Post-1980 the differences are easier to note, as the introduction of electronic drums and early FM synthesizers give the game away somewhat, but even then dating things is not that easy. According to Global Groove’s blog, the track “He O Oe Oe!” is from a 1985 UK album, but the blog claims the original recording dates from 1981. Also the Tao Ea Lesotho tracks date from an album released in the UK by Sterns in 1988, but “Puleng” was apparently a South African hit a few years before that. The truth is very, very difficult to find, so even if a couple of these actual recordings actually don’t pre-date “Graceland”, the songs and grooves most definitely do!

Apologies also for any spelling errors in the tracklisting, and the largest of thanks to all re-issuers of this music, particularly the “Indestructable Beat Of Soweto” and “Next Stop Soweto” series of albums, and the blogs Afro Slabs, Matsuli, Electric Jive, Global Groove and Soul Safari, who do an amazing job unearthing and digitizing tons of outstanding African music.

There’s plenty more I could add about the above artists, but I’ll save that for another time – Thanks for reading and listening – hope you enjoy the mix!

(Previous Hectic City mixes can be found by clicking here!)

42 Responses to “Hectic City 15 – Paths To Graceland”

  1. Jessica says:

    This was such an awesome compilation to listen to while working this afternoon, thanks! Love everything you do!

  2. Jon says:

    Wow! Super cool… thanks!

  3. Roded says:

    Very good.
    Thanks a lot.

  4. Chris says:

    I was never really a fan of Paul’s and beyond embracing “You Can Call Me Al” in my youth I don’t really recall ever really connecting with the man’s music. This adds a whole new layer of aural context to the picture for me though – thanks for the dedication to such a project Eric, this has been quite the enjoyable listen!

  5. Simon says:

    It’s delicious… thanks for the hour of a great pleasure! This make my day… Very, very good selection.

  6. Lorin says:

    This is literally the best thing I have heard all year. Thank you so much.

  7. Tom P says:

    This is brilliant, I massively appreciate the work that must have gone in to putting this mix together. Thank you!

  8. Lazy Reading for 2012/07/01 – DragonFly BSD Digest says:

    […] unrelated link of the day: The Kleptones are great, and this collection of the music that influenced Paul Simon’s Graceland is a wonderful find.  A happier album I’ve never heard.  I feel nostalgic for the days when […]

  9. Patrick says:

    love it, thanks!!

  10. Michael says:


  11. Mickey Sattler says:

    Whoa! I spent the better part of the late 1980s commuting in and out of Silicon Valley with Graceland blaring from my heavily upgraded car stereo :-)

    I am *thrilled* to be hearing this — THANK YOU THANK YOU.

    It’s not like there’s any shortage of African music around nowadays, thanks in part to the folks you mention, but the care you’ve taken in stalking the origins of Graceland have made this even tastier.

    Thank you again, and happy 4th July.

  12. Al says:

    So SO SO good! Wonderful mix. I will be searching many of these out…

  13. Ari says:

    What is the name of the first song?? With the above list I cant find the real first track of this great set!

    Thanks again!


  14. GG2000 says:

    brilliant! thank you!

  15. Paths to Graceland – July 04, 2012 at 05:17PM | Lifestream says:

    […] Paths to Graceland is a new mix from the Kleptones. Not bad listening for a BBQ. […]

  16. shiningrobes says:

    oh my god thank you.

  17. Beans says:

    Awesome! Very hard to sit still listening to this – thank you for making this available!

  18. Ethan Hein's Blog › Graceland says:

    […] but this would be the deepest he ever immersed himself in another musical culture. Here’s an awesome Kleptones mixtape of the music Paul Simon was after. window.onload = document.write(" […]

  19. Colin Beveridge says:

    Brilliant stuff — going to have this on repeat for the rest of the day :o)

  20. Graceland | Inaudible Answer says:

    […] You all know this album and if you don’t I clearly don’t know you. To try and keep your attention I am going to post this mix of the music that influenced Paul Simon when writing and recording the album. If whilst listening to this mix you find yourself mouth agape at some of the similarities between this material and some of the songs on Graceland you will be relieved to know some writing credits were shared. The full story can be read here. […]

  21. bizarrojerri says:

    Hi Eric,

    What a great comp. Nice to see someone taking an interest in great South Africa recordings, ‘cos it seems no one here in SA is particularly interested in this story. Keep on truckin’, thanks.

    Regards from Africa,


  22. erickleptone says:

    Thanks Jerri,

    That means a lot – Wasn’t sure when I posted it how it would go down with you guys in SA, so I’m glad of your warm reaction – “Graceland” may not be wanted news, but this music deserves to be played often and loud, and never forgotten :)

    Let’s dance!

    :) x

  23. Daniel Earwicker says:

    Enjoying this, and also keep hearing reminders of Malcolm McClaren’s ‘Duck Rock’ album.

  24. Happy distractions: sumo, South African music, and Islamic hackerfic | Lukor.net says:

    […] title exists. Kleptone discusses the possible provenance of the album in the notes for his mix, Paths to Graceland, which is an attempt to catalog possible influences that might have led Simon to South Africa. […]

  25. Dallying Automata » Blog Archive » Paths to Graceland says:

    […] Soundcloud, here’s a mix of songs that may have inspired Paul Simon’s Graceland. The blog post explains the “may have” in that, since Simon’s famous tape of South African music […]

  26. Martin says:

    You’ve done a great job here, really enjoyed it… thanks!

  27. Mr.T says:

    One of the best mixes I have heard in years thankyou thankyou :)

  28. Incredible mix of South African accordion pop « Zetetical Society Meeting Notes says:

    […] listening to The Indestructible Beat of Soweto and miss that sound? You will be well-rewarded by Paths to Graceland. Comments […]

  29. S.E. Rogie says:


  30. Herb Robert says:

    So GOOD!!!
    Thank you. I was lucky enough to meet Dicky Landy last year when he played with the Lil Band O Gold, and only then did I go back to Graceland and fully appreciate the Louisiana influence. It was the first time I’d heard of Clifton Chenier, in the back of my parents car in 86. Only years later did I hear his music.
    Anyway I digress. Wonderful Compilation. Thank you!

  31. Albert says:

    Any chance a download could be made with individual mp3s of each of the songs?

  32. Thalinda says:


  33. Gumboots lyrics | Filworld says:

    […] Hectic City » Blog Archiv » Hectic City 15 – Paths To Graceland […]

  34. Kasia_Poland says:

    wow, a very good mix and a fascinating article!
    It helped me in writing my essay for the musicology studies in Warsaw :)) which is about the mixture of music styles on the Graceland album.
    This is the only truly interesting and professionaly written text about Paul’s inspirations that I found on the internet.
    thanks a lot!

  35. erickleptone says:

    Hi Kasia, Thanks for the kind words and best of luck with your essay!

    You and others that enjoyed the mix may also want to check out this track by Clifton Chenier (The “King Of The Bayous”)… Try singing “That Was Your Mother” over the top of it… the phrasing is surprisingly similar, and it’s also, I think, in the same key as Paul’s tune…! ;-)



  36. Heidi Berg says:

    he ruined my life. i am glad world music is out there big, as i grew up with NOrwegian parents and family. with lots of accordion in my home and parties. i am the musician / singer-songwriter who worked in weird world bands, in Seattle, who came to nyc, who wrote songs, sang on millions of commercials like vw fahrvergnugen, —- simon had me blacklisted. all my songs like “HOMELESS KID” that i played for him the day i brought Ladysmith RED to his apt. — he wanted to produce me. He wanted to help me find the unique NICHE for me — I had the niche i wanted already. I wanted to do an accordion album. I loaned him my tape. He came to see me perform. I knew him from my jobs with Lorne Michaels *his bestfriend. — Paul heard and BOUGHT the rights to the albums. Nobody can find the cassettes or albums because he doesn’t want you to. You will then realize, he is a rich man, who took a young womans dream, made promises — gave her not one penny — and took lyrics, took concepts, took what should have been reciprocated or just do what he said he’d do. Taliban can lie. But Paul Simon, sounds and looks nicer than he is. He is quiet and absorbs, and steals. It’s not the first time. I just wasn’t a big fan. I wanted to do a video with Lorne, when lorne said, for me to work w/Paul to ‘help my career’. People say “why didn’t you go to the press?” —- because i needed to work. nobody likes a whiner, nor a person who exposes their ‘hero’. Let me just say, the tape that “Paul twittered” Is NOT NOT NOT the tape that i loaned him for one week. Which he did NOT give back to me until he owned it. from May 84 to October or Nov. 1984. — he’s a liar. Happy World music to you all. GIVE SCANDINAVIA CREDIT —- and all my pounding pavement to end up w/ a creep like him, who gave you all what you wanted. you’re welcome. Heidi Berg

  37. Edie Brickell says:

    Paul stole literally every song on Graceland.

    Every song is plagiarized.

    Every song is stolen.

  38. Brenda Pugh says:

    You checked the above post really came from Paul’s wife Edie ???

  39. Brenda Pugh says:

    You checked that the above comment really came from Paul’s wife Edie ???

  40. Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Always With Us – PaisleyTunes says:

    […] Simon was inspired by the township jiving Boyoyo Boys & the fabled Accordion Jive Hits Volume II, the most recognizable influence on Graceland is Ladysmith Black […]

  41. franky furbo says:

    the track Gumboots is based on is Son Op by the Boyoyo Boys. https://youtu.be/hYJv6nol0Fw

  42. Taxi Rank says:

    Like listening to the best SA radio program ever! This music was so hard to find here in Canada back in the 1980s. i was lucky enough to score some vinyl from a travelling journalist, it was life changing. Thanks for the mix!

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