South African composer, vocalist, and bassist Bakithi Kumalo (Bah-gee-tee Koomah-low) was born in the Alexandria Township of Johannesberg. In addition to economic hardships,due to the abandonment of his father, Bakithi was also dealing with an oppressive political system. Under Apartheid, the police could commit any atrocities they pleased against people of color and never be held accountable. When Bakithi had a recording session in the city proper, he had to carry papers that authorized his presence in town. Without them, he would have risked needy certain arrest and detainment.
Bakithi's fame grew, but his musical career was still a terrible struggle and he was seriously considering taking a job as a car mechanic at the time Paul Simon came calling in 1985. Simon was in South Africa to assemble a band for his "Graceland" album. A well-known Johannesberg producer suggested Bakithi for his unique ability. Simon was entranced by his sound and, after some preliminary sessions in South Africa, he flew Bakithi to New York City to complete the tracks. Bakithi was both thrilled and terrified to be in New York City. His indelible contributions to the Grammy-winning "Graceland" album gave him major visibility in the American music industry. He found himself in much demand for recordings and tours with many great artists such as Chaka Khan, Harry Belafonte, Cyndi Lauper, Laurie Anderson, Jon Secada, and Gloria Estefan.
Today, Bakithi has his own recordings of South African traditional folk and contemporary jazz music. Having traveled to South Africa as a free man, Bakithi is relieved that his people will never suffer the oppression of Apartheid again.