30+ years ago, I was having a party in my house in Jersey City. I think it was my 22nd or 23rd birthday. I invited a friend I knew from my commute; let’s call him David. He said he would love to come, but he had to pick up clients at Newark airport late that night. I didn’t know anything about David’s work or who his clients might be, but I’ve always been a more-the-merrier kind of girl, so I said “Bring them!” He said he’d see, and I forgot all about it.
The party was a great success, but just as it was starting to wind down, the front door opened, and in walked a group of gorgeous strangers, followed by David. My memory might have enhanced the moment a bit, but when I think of this night, I remember them all looking about 7 feet tall, beautiful, and dressed head to toe in glorious African prints. In melodious accents, they thanked me for the invitation, beamed at everyone, admired everything, took the drinks and food I offered, and began to make music. And suddenly, no one wanted to leave. The whole party gravitated toward my little music room, sitting on the stairs, leaning on the walls (I think I actually sat on the floor in my fancy dress), grinning, swaying, singing, humming, clapping, and making music together. I later learned my surprise guests were in town to perform with Paul Simon on his Graceland tour. That party has been one of my most cherished memories for more than three decades.
Last night, Beloved and I had a welcome home dinner with a good friend at Thai Rock, a local restaurant known for its great food and wonderful live music. The band, Bakithi Kumalo & The South African All-Stars, was alternating between jazz and South African music. After getting our table, we looked them up and learned Bakithi was one of the musicians who worked on Graceland with Paul Simon all those years ago! The girls convinced me to talk to him, and so when they took a break up I went. And three decades later, this lovely man (who is not, as it turns out, 7 feet tall) remembered me and the party! We had a great evening talking to him and listening to the band. I feel like the universe delivered me a welcome home present!
BK is still working with Paul Simon, and he is involved with Stevie Wonder’s farewell tour, too, so I am hopeful we can catch him in one of those shows.
You can follow the amazing, the stupendous, the magnificent (I might be a little biased) bassist/singer/songwriter Bakithi Kumalo on his website. And just for fun, here’s a little of what made BK famous and what makes him so special.