Acclaimed South African bassist Bakithi Kumalo will make a rare appearance in Bakersfield on Tuesday and Thursday for a series of music clinics focusing on the other instrument he loves: the ukulele.
Panama-Buena Vista educator Kevin Birkbeck, who also teaches ukulele classes, is arranging the visit by Kumalo, perhaps best known for his work on Paul Simon's "Graceland" album. Still active on the touring and studio circuit, Kumalo discovered the U-Bass five years ago, which opened new doors of opportunity for him, including the role of ukulele clinician.
"I'm so glad the instrument is coming back and taking over, because it's an old tradition," said Kumalo, 57, during a phone interview from his home on Long Island. "Every family in America used to have a ukulele in their home."
Able to produce the same pitches as a standard bass instrument, the size of the U-Bass is relatively close to the average ukulele.
"When I first saw the instrument, I thought it looked cool. I thought it was a toy, but then when I started playing it, I didn't stop for hours. I just couldn't believe the sound that was coming out of the bass. There's always been ukulele, but never a bass ukulele like this. I play it all the time now."
Birkbeck pitched the idea of having the bassist share his experiences with Bakersfield students after meeting Kumalo at a music merchants convention. Kumalo agreed, even paying for the trip himself.
"I'll do some bass solos and tell stories about growing up in South Africa, our music along with some videos about the making of the 'Graceland' album. The kids can ask questions."
Recalling the making of the classic album, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of its release last year, Kumalo said the experience ultimately altered the course of his career on a global scale.
"Somebody had sent Paul some tapes of South African music and he loved it. He flew to South Africa and we put the band together. We had no idea what he was looking for. The music was so complicated for him and difficult for him to follow at first. But, you know, he's a musician, a writer, so it's easy for him to come up with something. I was just really playing for fun, and then it took off. I had no idea it would have turned out like this."
Kumalo still tours regularly with Simon, in addition to treks with keyboardist Herbie Hancock and guitarist Derek Trucks among many others.
"I'm a student as well. Just because I play with the great players doesn't mean I know everything. I learn every day, and being around these musicians, it helps me to become a great player. I'm glad we were able to put this together and looking forward to visiting Bakersfield."
Kumalo will appear at 1:45 p.m., 2:20 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday at Berkshire Elementary, 3900 Berkshire Road, and on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. at Hart Elementary, 9501 Ridge Oak Drive. The public is invited and both shows are free. For more information, call Birkbeck at 496-9514.
It's been two years since Texas alt-country rockers Cody Canada & The Departed have been to California, but that doesn't mean the restless band has been sitting around getting rusty.
"I have to be out on the road," said singer/songwriter Cody Canada, who promises a rip-roaring show at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace on Wednesday. "It's always been that way for me. I started out touring when I was 18. I wanted to conquer every state, city by city."
Canada and bassist/compadre Jeremy Plato took some time after the demise of their previous Oklahoma country band, Cross Canadian Ragweed, to shed their skin and make way for a new identity as The Departed. The pair also relocated to Texas to be reintroduced on new musical turf.
"It was hard at first," Canada said. "We started out with a cover record of Oklahoma songs, which reminded people of our Ragweed sound, but we didn't want to rush a new record the first six to seven month we were together."
Following the release of their latest record, "Adventus," Canada and the rest of the band are finally at home with their new direction. Canada's signature sound has carried over to the present on a collection of solid country-laced rock originals.
"I've noticed that since we put the record out, fans have finally stopped asking for the old songs. They know we mean business."
Canada says Bakersfield can expect a rattlesnake bite of a show when they roll into town.
"It's going to be hard to contain ourselves. The fans there have always been great to us and my music. We got at least a good two-hour set and we're going to give it everything we've got."
Wednesday's showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 to $18, plus service charge. Buck Owens' Crystal Palace is located at 2800 Buck Owens Blvd. 328-7560 or visit vallitix.com.
From rock to country
KVMX-FM (MAX 92.1) in Bakersfield has changed formats, leaving behind classic rock for country. The new station, owned by Lotus Communications, is being rebranded "KIX Country, 92.1."
An item on the industry website Radio Online, said the lineup features syndicated personality Bobby Bones from 5 to 10 a.m. weekdays, and his "Country's Top 30 Countdown" on Sundays from 8 a.m. to noon.
Some disc jockeys from KVMX have been retained for the new format, including Anne Kelly, a voice on the local radio scene for more than 20 years.
The Radio Online item quoted Greg Holcomb, the station's general manager, as saying: "Country music is one of those formats that crosses all demographics. With our impressive talent line up, we look forward to satisfying our new listeners."
KSVG Benefit Show at Narducci's Cafe , 622 E. 21st St., Saturday, 7 p.m., $5, 2 p.m., 324-2961. Bakersfield's only nonprofit community terrestrial radio station, 89.7FM KSVG Savage Radio, has organized this marathon concert in Old Town Kern to help with the bills, and all at a very punk-rock admission price. Bands appearing live include local and visiting acts: Micah Newton & Kasey Culp, Tanked, Country Deluxe, Dreadful Selfish Crime, The Dharma Bums, Leksure, Artificial Euphoria, Love Lush, The Nature, Redadare, The Volume, and Choirs. There will also be raffles throughout the day, with all funds going to benefit KSVG Radio. More info at facebook.com/ksvgradio.