Like the Bhundu Boys I first heard Thomas
Mapfumo on BBC radio 1 with John Peel. The album "Chimurenga for Justice"
was released in 1986 and was one of the first Zimbabwean albums
to find a major audience in the UK.
Not much later, on my first Zimbabwe trip in 1988, I made sure I would
see Thomas perform at the garden of "Queens Hotel" in Harare. I was told
the crowd there was often a bit rough, but I had no trouble and it was an
unforgettable experience. Thomas and his band performed for several hours and
most of the time he seemed like in a trance, looking like a witch
doctor performing a magic ritual, which is exactly where his music
Thomas is one of the most senior performers in his country. During
the civil war of the 1970s he was one of the first artists to
take pride in Shona music. In 1979 he was arrested by the white
settler regime of Ian Smith for singing songs that were considered
rebellious. I was told that he was released after claiming that
the combative Shona lyrics of his songs were just translations of
British military songs... After Zimbabwean independence he was
harshly treated by ZANU, the new ruling party and has always
remained fiercly independent, criticizing corruption and abuse of
power under the new regime.
Thomas was one of the first artists to use electric guitars to
replicate the sound of the mbira (thumb piano) used by traditional
witch doctors during their ceremonies. When people listened to
American and European music and showed little respect for Zimbabwe's
indigenous music, Thomas took pride in his roots and helped to
bridge the gap between traditional and popular music without ever
drifting off into commercialism.
Thomas has always taken good care of the over a dozend musicians
who make up his band, the Blacks Unlimited. Unfortunately,
some of them died much too early.
- Ndangariro came out in 1983. My favourite track on it
is Nyoka Musango
- Chimurenga for Justice (LP), out in 1986, was the first album I
heard of Thomas and is still one of my favourites. I wish I could buy
it on CD.
- Chimurenga '98 appeared on CD in (who would have guessed ;-)) 1998.
- Live at El Rey appeared on CD in 1999 from AnonymousWeb (http://www.anonymousweb.com). In time for Thomas' 50th birthday
(same vintage as Bob Marley and Burning Spear), it's almost like
an "unplugged" version, more sparse in it's instrumentation than
most of Thomas' performances. In my opinion such haunting pieces
as Hwahwa, Pfumvu Paruzevha and Mahrororo are
good candidates for any "Best of Thomas" collection.
- Chimurenga Explosion is out now at AnonymousWeb.
I will review it as soon as possible!
Thomas' CDs and download tracks at Calabash Music
Thomas' at aNOnym reCOrds
Thomas Mapfumo family pictures
Solomon Murungu's excellent Thomas Mapfumo page
"Good News for Mapfumo Fans" (Zimbabwe Standard, 31-March-2002)
News about Thomas Mapfumo Tour 2006:
Thomas Mapfumo's management agency House Of Savoir-Faire based in New York
is happy to announce the kick of "Rise up Zimbabwe" tour; the first show
is on the 1st of July in UK.
This summer "Mukanya" is going on a road tour
raising awareness to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Zimbabwe working with Mwana Ndi
Mai non profit organization.
We have a show Lined up for you in almost every part of the world and we
just thought we will share with you the good news in our camp.
1. For UK tour schedule and Booking contact Rob Challice of CODA agency
2. For all US and Canada tour schedule and bookings please contact David
3. A new site will be Launched on the 1st of July 06
4. Rise up Has been re-realesed in Europe and the Americas under Peter
Gabriel's Real World Records