Thomas Mapfumo will be performing live @ Leo's night club on 1119 Candelaria NW ABQ
Brand new album release show.
Thomas Mapfumo Biography.
Affectionately known at home as “Mukanya” (“Baboon”) and to the rest of the world as the “Lion of Zimbabwe’, Thomas Mapfumo has been a witness to and participant in history in his native Zimbabwe. From the bloody years of the country’s liberation war in the 1970’s, right through the present economic and political cries. Mapfumo has used his revolutionary, spiritually charged music to decry injustice and highlight the historical and cultural issues that underlie the news headlines. Mapfumo is a musical visionary and fearless social critic, and certainly one of the greatest African bandleaders of the past century.
A country boy Mapfumo was born in 1945 in Marondera, a small town south of the Rhodesian capital Salisbury. He lived with his grandparents tending cattle herds, and waking up before sunrise to do chores before school. His Family was well experienced in their Shona traditional music of celebration songs accompanied by drums called “Ngoma” and the sacred music of the metal pronged mbira, an instrument whose beautiful, cycling melodies could summon the presence of ancestor spirits. Traditional music is the foundation of Mapfumo’s musical personality, a force that continues to shape the history and spiritual life of his country.
At the age of 10, he moved to Mbare, the poorest and toughest black township of Harare (then called Salisbury). Mbare was a center of black protest against the Rhodesian regime, and a scene of random police actions designed to intimidate would be rebels. In Mbare Mapfumo also heard radio for the first time, and he was wowed by African jazz from Johannesburg and Bulawayo, As a teenager for years he was a rock & roll singer of the capital, singing in English and mimicking American stars like Elvis Presley, Wilson Pickett, he also played foreign Zairean (rhumba) which was very popular at that time.
In 1973 Mapfumo and guitarist Joshua Dube formed a band the Hallelujah Chicken Run. Thomas began to draw on his culture and language for inspiration, He adapted songs from the ancient ‘mbira” repertoire and worked them into the band’s Afro-rock repertoire, to sing in Shona was unusual, and in the context of the escalating war, this was something of a revolutionary act in Rhodesia’s colonialist state rule. So as Mapfumo continued to develop as a songwriter, his devotion to traditional music inevitably politicized him. Mapfumo moved on to work with the Acid Band and then with the Blacks Unlimited (1978), Everything came together! He developed his mbira pop sound with guitarists Jonah Sithole and Leonard “Picket” Chiyangwa, bassist Charles Makokova, and other innovative young players. Mapfumo’s lyrics reflected the concerns of the people around him the hardships of rural life, youngmen heading to the bush to fight, and a rising sense of indignation at white rulers who had systematically devalued Shona culture for four generations. The gorilla fighters had taken the name Chimurenga, Shona for “struggle”, and Mapfumo decided to call his new sound “Chimurenga”. Chimurenga songs captured the imaginations of blacks nationwide. His songs became cultural touchstones of the struggle against white colonial rule in Rhodesia. Rebels and their supporters took comfort from his music. Mapfumo dedicated most of his songs to the fight of the Liberation struggle.
In 1980 Robert Mugabe was elected president of the new nation, Zimbabwe, that year Mapfumo and the Blacks unlimited shared the stage with Bob Marley and the wailers at the national celebration of Zimbabwean independence. That concert marked his transition from local hero to an international Star, releasing albums on England’s ground breaking Earthworks label and Chris Blackwell’s mango print. Thomas Mapfumo toured worldwide mostly USA and UK. In 1989 when leaders began to reveal themselves as corrupt and lacking in vision for the nation, they found themselves in Mapfumo’s artistic crossfhairs. He warned young people not to let themselves be used by dirty politicians. Mapfumo released the album “corruption.”
By the summer of 2000 conditions in Zimbabwe had deteriorated badly as a result of NO RULE OF LAW and Corruption in the present government, Mapfumo continued to be the voice of the voiceless, which did not go well with some high profiles in the government that were involved in dirty scandals and corruption. Feeling pressure on many sides, Mapfumo moved his family to the United States that year. And since then, he and the band have been living in Eugene, Oregon as the situation in Zimbabwe continues to decline.
Mapfumo released a CD called Exile in 2010, and is now finishing a new CD to be titled Danger Zone, He continues to tour in USA , Europe and was honoured to perform at the Carnegie Hall NYC on October 20 2012 in recognition of his experience in the muic industry.