Breaking Down The Most Famous Bass Break In Popular Music: Bakithi Kumalo’s Work on “You Can Call Me Al”

In this episode, I’m digging into the 1987 Album of the Year, Paul Simon’s Graceland, the amazing bassist from Soweto, Bakithi Kumalo, and the hit song that introduced the rest of the world to Mbaqanga music: “You Can Call Me Al.”

I’ll break down the iconic bass line (in its many forms), show you the other bass parts you might have missed in the song (including one played by Paul Simon!), and recreate what actually happened to construct one of the most famous bass breaks in popular music.

Paul Thompson has been playing bass professionally for over 30 years, including recording and touring stints with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson and saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. Recent playing credits include Bob Reynolds, John Pizzarelli, Jeff 'Tain' Watts, and Bob James, among others. Currently, he can be seen playing in and around the Pittsburgh, PA area with the THOTH Trio, the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, and many other musicians in the city's rich Jazz community. An educator of over 25 years, Paul currently teaches Jazz Bass at Duquesne University, West Virginia University, and his alma mater, Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 Performing Arts School.

Connect with Paul on Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and his website.

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