Those who have been following his career know that Bakithi Kumalo joined Paul Simon’s band in 1985 and has performed with him ever since. His playing on Simon’s album Graceland became one of the iconic bass performances of all time. In February, Simon announced Homeward Bound – The Farewell Tour, the final phase of his fifty-year performance career. Kumalo will accompany him on this tour, as he has for the last thirty years. He plays an array of NS instruments, including the CR5 RADIUS bass guitar and the NXT4 electric upright bass.
Last October we had the pleasure of capturing highlights of time spent between Bakithi and Ned Steinberger at Ned’s studio and workshop in Maine. In the course of their conversation, Ned shared his thoughts on instrument design and the relationship between designer and musician. Bakithi played and shared his own thoughts on Ned’s instruments, including some of his experimental creations.
This is a must-watch video for any fan of Bakithi or Ned, and fascinating for anyone who thinks deeply about music.
Joining him with an NXT Electric Cello is fellow multi-instrumentalist, composer and tour mate Mark Stewart who has been recording and touring with Paul Simon since the late 1990’s. Stewart is also one of the All-Star musicians inBang on a Can, awarded Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year and heralded as “the country’s most important vehicle for contemporary music” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Mark is also a member of Steve Reich & Musicians and the comic duo Polygraph Lounge with Rob Schwimmer and in 2013 was in a year-long residency at MIT in the Glass Lab teaching students to design and create a glass orchestra.
Photos: Bakithi Kumalo and Mark Stewart in rehearsal for tour with Paul Simon.
Watch: Paul Simon‘s debut performance at Austin City Limits with “Wristband” from his album Stranger to Stranger. The album is described by Andy Greene of Rolling Stone as “an experimental album heavy on echo and rhythm that fuses electronic beats with African woodwind instruments, Peruvian drums, a gospel music quartet, horns and synthesizers.” A great showcase for Kumalo’s talents, who opens this funny song playing his NXT Upright.
Watch: Bass Musician Magazine Interviewwith Bakithi Kumalo in which he describes how he got his start on stage at just 7 years old playing a Gibson bass in his uncle’s band in South Africa; his ultimate respect for finding the tone, the most influential bassists for him and his willingness to share lessons he has learned along the way to a successful career playing his music for audiences around the world. And at 22:00 in this interview…see and hear the slap sound technique he’s having fun with these days on his CR5 RADIUS Bass Guitar, it’s a real treat and is as fun, adventurous and masterful as Kumalo himself. Enjoy!