“I had no idea what the hell I was doing! I couldn’t speak English. But Paul was so kind. Through a translator, he said, ‘Just relax. I love the way you play’”: How Bakithi Kumalo became go-to bassist for Paul Simon, Cyndi Lauper and Tedeschi Trucks Band

Bakithi Kumalo
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With roots reaching back to his birthplace in Johannesburg, South Africa, Bakithi Kumalo’s bass chops are eclectic. Paul Simon – who has toured with the bassist since they first met during sessions for 1986’s Graceland – has described Kumalo’s playing as “enormous… almost like a horn, but also primal”.

One listen to the classic bass run on You Can Call Me Al, along with the rest of his Graceland work, confirms as much. His South African influences are scattered throughout his playing.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Andrew Daly

Andrew Daly is an iced-coffee-addicted, oddball Telecaster-playing, alfredo pasta-loving journalist from Long Island, NY, who, in addition to being a contributing writer for Guitar World, scribes for Rock Candy, Bass Player, Total Guitar, and Classic Rock History. Andrew has interviewed favorites like Ace Frehley, Johnny Marr, Vito Bratta, Bruce Kulick, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Rich Robinson, and Paul Stanley, while his all-time favorite (rhythm player), Keith Richards, continues to elude him.