Bakithi Kumalo

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Bakithi Kumalo
Born (1956-05-10) 10 May 1956 (age 67)
Alexandra, Gauteng, South Africa[1]
Instrument(s)Bass guitar

Bakithi Kumalo (/bɑːˈɡˈt kˈmɑːl/; born 10 May 1956[1]) is a South African bassist, composer, and vocalist.[2] Kumalo is most known for his fretless bass playing on Paul Simon's 1986 album Graceland, in particular the bass run on "You Can Call Me Al".[3]

Biography and career[edit]

Bakithi Kumalo was born in the Soweto township of Johannesburg, surrounded by relatives who loved music and actively performed. He got his first job at the age of seven filling in for his uncle's bass player.[2][4] Kumalo worked as a session musician in South Africa during the 1970s and early 1980s, eventually becoming a top session bassist and accompanying international performers during their South African tours.[5]

In 1985, Kumalo was introduced to Paul Simon by producer Hendrick Lebone during the sessions for Simon's Graceland album. Kumalo traveled with Simon to New York to finish the sessions, and after the accompanying concert tour, "spent several years commuting between Soweto and New York City" before permanently settling in the United States.[5] Kumalo has toured regularly with Simon since then. He has also released several solo records, and continued to perform as a session musician with artists such as Joan Baez, Cyndi Lauper, Herbie Hancock, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Randy Brecker, Grover Washington Jr., and Mickey Hart.[2]

Playing style[edit]

Kumalo's playing combines elements of American Motown and jazz styles with traditional South African music.[2][6] His lines "typically feature inverted broken arpeggios, quick pentatonic lines, and counter melodies," using techniques such as slap bass, dead notes, "octave 'hiccups,' anticipated downbeats, triplets, and double stops."[2] He cites Jaco Pastorius, Alphonso Johnson, and James Jamerson as important early influences.[6]

He purchased his first fretless bass, a Washburn B-40 model, because "it was the cheapest bass in the store . . . nobody wanted to play it."[1] Paul Simon has described Kumalo's sound on this instrument as "enormous . . . almost like a horn, but so primal."[5][1] As of 2014, he also plays a signature model Kala U-Bass.[2]



  1. ^ a b c d Jisi, Chris. Brave New Bass. San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books. pp. 186–189. ISBN 0-87930-763-3. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Madora, Ryan. "Bass Players to Know: Bakithi Kumalo". No Treble. No Treble, LLC. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  3. ^ Mojapelo, Max (18 March 2009). Beyond Memory: Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music. African Minds. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-920299-28-6. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
  4. ^ "Bakithi Kumalo - About". Bakithi Kumalo. BaliDali Productions, Inc. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Jisi, Chris, ed. (2008). Bass Player Presents the Fretless Bass. Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Hooks. pp. 28–30. ISBN 978-0-87930-925-1. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Interview with Paul Simon bassist Bakithi Kumalo". For Bass Players Only. Notehead Media Group, LLC. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  7. ^ a b c "Bakithi Kumalo - Album Discography". AllMusic. All Media Network, LLC. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Stranger to Stranger". concordmusicgroup.

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