- Category: PA 2008
Thomas Mapfumo, Legendary Zimbabwean musician, born in 1945 and whilst in high school joined his first band, The Zutu Brothers. For the next ten years, while the liberation war raged, Thomas made his way as an itinerant singer in early bands before he started the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band in 1972. It was here, working with guitarist Joshua Dube, that he first adapted songs from the ancient mbira repertoire and worked them into the band's Afro-rock repertoire. At the time, to sing in Shona was not only unusual but, in the context of the escalating war, automatically political.
Thomas moved on to work first with the Acid Band, and then with the Blacks Unlimited, where he, together with his guitarists, developed his unique mbira pop sound. He decided to call his new sound “chimurenga music”, Shona for struggle. His lyrics, in particular, reflected the concerns of the people around him and the colonial devaluation of Shona culture.
Post-independence black leaders also found themselves targets of Thomas through songs like “Corruption” and “Jojo”. The music also evolved. In the late 1980s, he introduced three mbiras to the band's line-up, and he came to think of them as core of the Blacks Unlimited sound. The band began to tour internationally, and made the landmark recordings for Chris Blackwell's Mango Records, Corruption (1989) and Chamunorwa(1990).
In the late 1990 and early 2000s, Mapfumo increasingly focused his ire on the country's leaders who reacted by, amongst other things, drawing up trumped up charges that he had bought stolen cars. Mapfumo moved his family out of the country to the USA , where they have lived ever since. Thomas is the only performing artist to be awarded a honourary doctorate from the University of Zimbabwe . He continues to record incendiary music and to have it banned by Zimbabwean radio.
“I want to work for the people of Zimbabwe . Maybe I'm not going to join any political party, but I just want to work for the people of Zimbabwe , for their better tomorrow, for a better Zimbabwe . That's exactly what I want to do.” Thomas Mapfumo.