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Paul Simon Cheered in Zimbabwe Concert

February 14, 1987 GMT

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ More than 20,000 Paul Simon fans cheered the American pop star and 25 black South African musicians Saturday in the first African performance of the controversial ″Graceland in concert″ tour.

More than 2,000 white South Africans, most of them wearing distinctive T- shirts, were among those packing Rufaro soccer stadium for the first day of the two-day extravaganza. Also on hand were Zimbabwe’s President Canaan Banana, Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s wife Sally and at least one Cabinet minister.

Simon, the South African musicians and local performers played for almost six hours in the open-air stadium.

The white South Africans applauded and sang along with black South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela’s impassioned ″Free Mandela″ - a musical plea for the release of imprisoned African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela.

″Today’s show is about the music of South Africa and and music of Graceland,″ Simon announced at the beginning of the concert.

A fusion of Western pop, African gospel and black South African ghetto soul, Simon’s ″Graceland″ record album has sold more than 4 million copies and been nominated for four Grammy awards, including album of the year.

The show concluded with fans raising clenched fists as the artists sang ″Nkosi Sikelela Africa,″ (God Bless Africa), the anthem of Mandela’s guerrilla organization fighting South Africa’s white-led government.

But even as two dozen stage hands were rigging 25 tons of imported sound gear, lighting and instruments, critics were still questioning whether the show should be allowed to go on.

″I join all those politically conscious masses of southern Africa in gracefully boycotting,″ columnist Phineas Ndlovu wrote in Saturday’s Herald newspaper, controlled by the state-owned Mass Media Trust.

″There stands Paul Simon like some explorer or missionary in 19th century Africa surrounded by a group of singing, tribally dressed Africans. The European is the center of attraction ... the master.″

Critics contend that by recording a half-dozen songs for ″Graceland″ with black musicians in South Africa in 1985, Simon violated a United Nations’ cultural boycott against entertainers visiting that country.

But Simon, addressing a news conference Friday night, said his name was erased from a U.N. blacklist.

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″I went there for my interest and my love for music,″ Simon said.

Masekela, who lives in exile, defended Simon, as did co-performers and fellow South Africans Miriam Makeba and the Ladysmith Black Mambazo all-male Zulu choral group.

″Concerts like Graceland bring together South African musicians and help bridge the gap between exiles and people still living there,″ said Masekela. Simon’s British tour manager Andrew Zweck said proceeds from the two shows, in which 50,000 tickets were on sale for $3 each, would go to local charities helping cripples, lepers and orphans.

Mrs. Mugabe received a check on behalf of the charities at the end of Saturday’s performance. The amount was not immediately known.

The Zimbabwe performances were sandwiched between shows in Frankfurt, West Germany, last Wednesday and Munich next Tuesday as part of a three-continen t tour that will wind up in the United States.

Zweck said all performers had waived fees for the Harare concerts, but would share royalties from a television film being shot over the weekend.