My Music
An Interesting Philosophical & Political Conundrum
The Making of Paul Simon's 'Graceland' Album

Paul Simon Graceland Cover

I've watched an interesting programme about the making of Paul Simon’s Graceland album. In travelling to South Africa to work with local musicians, the famous singer went against current sanctions which the African National Congress party were asking the world to place on the country in protest against the white racist regime.

This created a fascinating philosophical and political conundrum – Mr Simon thought that the creativity of artists existed outside the political arena and should not be in any way compromised by any political motivations. He argued that the musicians he played with were delighted to be involved in the project and that to stop them would in fact be an infringement of their personal freedom to play and share their music with the world (which, due to the album’s phenomenal success, was changing the world’s view of their troubled country by showing such a beautiful musical heritage). Equally eloquent in his argument was a Mr Tambo (the leader of the ANC) who had protested against Simon’s breaking of the sanctions. He argued that you can't have sanctions which are flexible, which some people abided by while others didn't. Anyone who didn't uphold sanctions worked against the effectiveness of those that did. He felt that the personal freedom of the artists to play was a ‘lesser‘ freedom relative to the freedom of the black people of a whole country. Who was right? The beauty of the programme was that it didn't hide from the fact that there seemed to be no clear black and white (sorry about that) answer. Life's like that sometimes!

The documentary had a beautiful ending when, after putting their arguments to each other all these years later, the two men put their difference aside and embraced. It showed that, though they had different approaches, they were actually both on the same side all along. The conundrum kind of melted away by the humanity of these two well-meaning men.