Bakithi Kumalo’s musical path has led him from is native South Africa to clubs, music halls, and theaters around the globe.
Yet it is more intimate venues such as Godfrey Daniels where the renowned veteran bassist feels most at home.
Kumalo is one of six musicians who will perform Friday during the Come Together fundraiser concert at the Bethlehem listening room.
“I like to work with everybody because that’s the way to connect the world,” Kumalo said Wednesday evening during a phone interview. “Whoever I play with, I learn (something); it’s about being a part of what’s going on in that moment… I try to enjoy every moment and learn as much as I can.”
Best known for his more than 30 years working with Paul Simon — he recorded bass on SImon’s Grammy Award-winning 1986 album Graceland, including the hit single “You Can Call Me Al” — Kumalo has carved out an impressive career as one of the industry’s most sought-after session musicians and sidemen. He has recorded and/or toured with such notable pop and rock legends as Gloria Estefan, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Randy Brecker, Josh Groban, Jon Secada, Chris Botti, and Grover Washington Jr.
Kumalo will be joined this weekend by multi-instrumentalist John Huie, singer-songwriter Michael Duck (a.k.a. Not for Coltrane), folk musician Dave Fry, blues singer Bev Conklin, and singer Alyssa Allen..
Proceeds from the “Come Together” show will benefit the Anti-Defamation League’s Philadelphia office to support its “No Place for Hate” program in participating Pennsylvania schools. “No Place for Hate” is a 20-year-old anti-bullying initiative of the Anti-Defamation League that's used in more than 1,600 schools across the United States.
The evening will include a discussion led by Jack Silva, Bethlehem Area School District's assistant superintendent and chief academic officer, about how Bethlehem schools use the “No Place for Hate” program.
“It makes me feel better when I play for people. The people are my gift, because they come to see,” Kumalo said. “Without them, I’m nobody.”
Duck said he is especially excited to have Kumalo on the bill. The latter was approached to play the 2018 Come Together show, but a last-minute call from Simon caused Kumalo to change plans. “I’ve literally been looking forward to this for a year-and-a-half,” Duck said Tuesday during a phone interview. “I’m looking forward to all of the pieces falling into place.”
In addition to his performing under his Not for Coltrane moniker (the name of which was inspired by his dog), singer-songwriter Duck hosts the weekly Facebook Live series, “#ColtraneTuesdays,” featuring his “Stump the Band” game.
For Duck, who is also the event’s organizer, one of the most gratifying aspects of Come Together lies within the name of the event itself.
“So much of what we do as human beings is about putting ourselves in boxes… I think it’s important to have experiences that allow us to break down those barriers we put up for ourselves,” Duck said. “This is a very different kind of show from what a lot of the performers are used to doing. A lot of it is similar to doing musical trust falls.”
Duck said he is proud of the event has grown since its inception in 2017 and the amount of people the message has reached. “Every year, we have some things where we had good ideas but ran out of time to implement them,” he said. “I’m really, really grateful to everyone at Godfrey Daniels who have supported this from day one.”
Those who will not be able to attend the “Come Together” event will still be able to catch the show. Anyone who donates at least $5 to the “Come Together” GoFundMe campaign will receive information about how watch a live webcast of the performance. Other thank-you gifts are available.
“Come Together” will take place 7 p.m. April 5 at Godfrey Daniels, 7 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem. There will be a $10 suggested donation at the door. Admission is free for students. Reservations can be made through Godfrey Daniels’ website.
“Come Together” is presented as part of the SouthSide Arts District “First Friday” concert series, and is supported by additional community sponsors, including Freestone Productions, Webfoot Digital, Working Dog Press, Molly’s Irish Grille & Sports Pub, and DustinSchoof.com.