- Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, Bakithi Kumalo is a Grammy Award-winning bassist, composer, and vocalist who has collaborated with Paul Simon, Laurie Anderson, Cyndi Lauper, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Herbie Hancock, Bob James, Randy Brecker, Chaka Khan, and many others.
Thought of by many as one of the most talented living bassists, Kumalo possesses a unique musical style reflecting influences from around the world, including South African traditional folk, contemporary jazz, salsa, and electronica.
The concert is at 3 pm, doors open at 2:30 pm, Sunday, January 5th, 2014 at The Cooperage. 1030 Main Street, Honesdale, PA 18431. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day of show, 570-352-2020, email@example.com.
Bakithi Kumalo's musical career has been characterized by a series of serendipitous events, ranging from his debut gig as a precocious seven-year-old filling in for the bassist in his uncle's band to his enlistment into Paul Simon's group during the recording sessions of the pop star's landmark Graceland album in 1985.
Kumalo creates a singular electric fretless bass sound teeming with double stops that sound like human voices and the African grooves of his homeland, and has garnered him a stellar reputation as a sideman.
In addition to touring with Simon, he's also recorded and/or toured with the likes of Gloria Estefan, Derrick Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, Chico Ceasar, Harry Belafonte, Gerald Albright, Grover Washington Jr., Vusi Masahlela, Angelique Kidjo, Jon Secada, Josh Groban and Chris Botti among numerous others.
Kumalo has also been active as a solo artist, with four fine albums to his credit — 1998's San' Bonan', 2000's In Front of My Eyes, 2008’s Transmigration, and 2011’s Change — as well as four CD's - three of them award winning children's albums recorded with his wife, vocalist Robbi K - www.RobbiKumalo.com. After many years on Long Island, The Kumalo’s currently make their home in the Lehigh Valley, PA.
Kumalo's bass-playing history began in Soweto where he grew up surrounded by music. His mother sang in a church choir and his uncle, a saxophone player, was always at his house rehearsing his band.
"Every weekend, everyone would be at my house singing and playing all day," Kumalo says. "Plus there were bands on every block of my neighborhood. So, music surrounded me. There was traditional African rhythmic music as well as a cappella vocal groups. I picked up the bass early and realized I could follow the groove of a tune with it. I could play the bass lines from a cappella music, and I learned how to develop lines based on the left-hand work of accordion players in the township bands."
Kumalo says it wasn't until later that he heard the fretless sound by people like Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Bailey. "And, of course, there was Jaco Pastorius," he says. "I heard him, and I thought, 'hey, that's like me.'"
Page 2 of 2 - While Kumalo became a professional at an early age in his uncle's band, life in apartheid South Africa posed many challenges; so many, in fact, that Kumalo began to look for work outside the music field.
A producer friend introduced him to Simon, whose music he was largely unfamiliar with. Despite his nervousness in meeting the American pop star in a studio setting, Kumalo says Simon immediately gravitated to his bass style.
Bakithi’s work on Graceland opened the doors for him to pursue other avenues. H hooked up with former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, who took the bassist on tour with him.
"Mickey was great," Kumalo says. "There was no audition. He told me to pack up my bass and not to worry about learning the music because that would happen on the road. It was a great time!"
He is currently preparing for a 2014 tour that kicks off in February with Paul Simon and Sting. In 2013 he was featured on Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump with Penn & Teller.
In 2012, Simon and Kumalo returned back to South Africa 25 years later about the making of the Graceland album. Oscar-nominated director Joe Berlinger followed Simon and Kumalo as they traveled back to South Africa for a reunion concert with the original “Graceland” band members. The award winning film is entitled UNDER AFRICAN SKIES and can be seen nationwide.
The presentation on Jan. 5, From apartheid to Freedom, includes the of screening excerpts from UNDER AFRICAN SKIES as well as an unpredictable mix of original compositions flavored with South African rhythms, songs, stories about Nelson Mandela, Miriam Makeba, Paul Simon's Graceland CD and whatever else comes to the mind and fingers of Bakithi who’ll be accompanied by award winning vocalist Robbi K on piano, and the sensational Wayne Dunton on drums.