Paul Simon had to navigate a political minefield when he traveled to South Africa. There was a United Nations cultural boycott in place that was designed to pressure political leaders into giving up their racist Apartheid policy. The crux of the boycott was keeping popular musicians away from places like Sun City
where they played to the white ruling class in South Africa. The problem was that any violation of the boycott could undermine the sanctions, and many locals were not happy with Simon's visit.
There was also the contention that Simon was using African talent for personal gain - just another white guy pillaging their people - but Simon paid the musicians well and gave songwriting credits to the authors of the songs he based his tracks on; "The Boy in the Bubble" is credited to Simon and Forere Motloheloa.
These South African sanctions didn't just keep outside musicians away from the country, but it also kept their local music from getting out - Simon only heard it because a friend gave him a bootleg cassette tape. Graceland
was historic because it brought the sound of South Africa to the world, and in doing so, focused attention on their political struggles. Simon ignored politicians every step of the way, and took some of his favorite South African musicians on tour with him, putting them in violation of their country's sanctions, which they were willing to do for the unique opportunity to play in packed stadiums around the world. Exiled South African musical legends Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela also joined the tour and lent support to Simon.