Quac O. wrote:What I don't like about Graceland is that the melodiousness of the African music he was influenced by seems to require some special lyrical angle, and for me, I don't think he found it. The stuff Simon wrote wasn't very interesting to me. Maybe Graceland means something to him. I'm more put off by Simon's use of the Elvis imagery than any impropriety of use of African music.
This is similar to a thought I had just the other day listening to Sambient's JUoA CD, which was Bebel Gilberto's self-titled debut (I'll go through the connections in just a second).
I would also agree that something didn't quite gell. The music that had the biggest South African influence suggested syllables and accents different from the ones that Paul Simon has access to. South African vocal groups have their own "doo-wop" choruses and words that they use; they have a particular sound and an accent, and these are totally different from Simon's lyrics and the way he sings.
Maybe someone like Van Morrison could have figured out a way in work within South African styles, but Morrison is much more imaginative and daring singer.
In a larger context (and the one that connects this to Bebel Gilberto), I think that some musical styles are hard to sing in languages other than their original language. Bossa nova is meant to be in Portuguese. Susannah McCorkle tried singing in Portuguese and English, and the choruses I've heard in English don't work. Bebel's singing in English isn't as good as her singing in Portuguese.
Edith Piaf doesn't sound right in English.
Opera has a hard time working in languages other than Italian. Some of this may be because in English you can actually hear the words,some of which you don't want to hear.
Example. Michael Tippett.
"What's bugging you, man?/ Cool and jivey once;/ Now, touchy and tight
Remember, this is sung within an opera.
I was flabberghasted as well.