'Under African Skies'
In 1985, Paul Simon, adrift after the failure of 1983's "Hearts and Bones," took a bold left turn.
He sought out an eclectic mix of South African artists to collaborate on 1986's "Graceland" -- exposing Western audiences to new world-music voices and, as David Byrne puts it in Joe Berlinger's celebratory making-of doc, rejoining American music with its African roots.
In the documentary -- which is packaged as a DVD in the 2011 rerelease of "Graceland" and can be watched on Hulu Plus -- Berlinger mixes '80s behind-the-scenes and concert footage with a 25th-anniversary reunion of Simon, the album musicians, and the critics who slammed Simon for ignoring the UN's anti-apartheid cultural boycott (even though Simon was helping their cause by exposing the world to South African culture).
Simon's 25-years-later discussion with one of the leaders of the 1986 critical charge, Artists Against Apartheid founder Dali Tambo, is polite but not necessarily peaceful.
The history (and passionate arguments about art and its obligation to politics) are fascinating -- though I do wish they'd at least mentioned the Los Lobos/Simon dispute over "The Myth Of Fingerprints" songwriting credit.
'Reel Music is 30, and the party is on' (The Oregonian, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012)