The video for Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” famously features the singer-songwriter’s old pal Chevy Chase hamming it up while lip-synching to Simon’s vocals. But Chase isn’t the only one faking it in that clip. Simon appears alongside him, cycling through a number of instruments while wearing a stoic deadpan. Near the end of the video, Simon mimes an elastic bass run and proceeds to play along with the record’s buoyant groove.
The man responsible for the song’s now-iconic bassline is actually Bakithi Kumalo, who will host a South African Dance Party on Friday evening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A native of Soweto township, Kumalo now lives in the Lehigh Valley and has worked with a wide range of artists, including Cyndi Lauper, Hugh Masekela, Herbie Hancock, and Chaka Khan.
Kumalo’s sound, which graced much of Simon’s landmark 1985 album Graceland, blends the traditions of his native South Africa with the electric fusion sound of bassists like Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke. At the Art Museum, he’ll lead a five-piece band through music from his four solo CDs, a rare opportunity for a musician who spends so much of his time on the road playing other people’s music as he will early next year, as he heads back out on the road for a tour co-headlined by Paul Simon and Sting.