Thomas Mapfumo

2011 October 07

Zimbabwean music icon, Thomas Mapfumo, is scheduled to perform this Friday, October 7, at Botswana Craft. He will be accompanied by his band, The Blacks Unlimited.

Known as ‘The Lion of Zimbabwe’, Mapfumo is famed not just for creating and popularising Chimurenga music, but for his criticism of the Zanu-PF government in his lyrics. Mapfumo first created Chimurenga music (which means struggle in Shona) in the 70’s during the struggle for freedom from the white minority government. His music had revolutionary and political undertones.

Because he sang in Shona, government officials could not immediately appreciate the impact of his music – though it was beginning to incite the masses to overthrow government with force, if need be. However, his radical song Hokoya (Watch Out!) was banned and resulted in him being thrown in prison. Protests saw him being released three months later.

When Zimbabwe finally gained independence in 1980, Thomas began to support the new government. However, his disillusionment with President Robert Mugabe’s leadership led to a resentment that came out once again in his politically-charged lyrics. Today, he lives in exile in America. He was once quoted in an interview as saying, “If I went back to Zimbabwe, I’m not afraid of … the soldiers, I’m afraid of those enemies which are being used by the regime today. People who don’t care whether they are paid fifty dollars to kill someone, they could just do it… they are desperate.”

Mapfumo remains a cultural hero in his country, and continues to tour the world with his band, singing songs of human rights, justice and political issues.