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How A Detroit Flop Became South Africa's Superstar

Rodriguez carries his guitar through Detroit, Mich., his hometown.
Sony Pictures Classics
Rodriguez carries his guitar through Detroit, Mich., his hometown.

Searching for Sugar Mantells the story of the search for musician Sixto Rodriguez. The Detroit-based folk singer released a couple of albums in the early seventies, but those records flopped in the United States.

Unbeknownst to Rodriquez, his albums made their way to South Africa and electrified liberal young Afrikaners who came to consider him a superstar.

"He was like the voice of freedom in a time in South Africa where ... people didn't have freedom. It was this censored, horrible apartheid regime," director Malik Bendjelloul tells NPR's Neal Conan.

"He actually ... without even knowing what he was aiming, changed a society."

Bendjelloul explains how his music made its way to South Africa and the search for Rodriguez decades later.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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