In 1984, The Forum in London was buzzing with anticipation for the live performance of Thomas Mapfumo. An artist from Zimbabwe and pioneer of what is now known as Chimurenga, a politically charged music unique to Zimbabwe, Mapfumo also holds a special place in the hearts of many. His sound has been described as highly rhythmic, incredibly powerful and wildly infectious. The concert at The Forum included some of his classic hits; nothing could have prepared attendees for the sheer energy in the room that night. Those who were fortunate enough to be there saw first-hand why Thomas Mapfumo is revered amongst lovers of world music around the globe.
About Thomas Mapfumo
Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo rose as a powerful voice of dissent and liberation during the tensions of Zimbabwe’s fight for independence in the 1970s, through to the socio-political issues of today. His revolutionary Chimurenga style blended traditional melodies with the new. At this time, he released his own compositions, paving a unique sound that spoke out against injustice undercutting news headlines. His popularity rose the ire of the white ruling party, leading to his imprisonment in 1977; after agreeing to abandon free concerts and voicing support for government initiatives, he won his freedom again. To this day, Mapfumo remains connected to grassroots movements and advocates for justice, reviving what has become Zimbabwe’s musical message of social change.
Thomas Mapfumo had a multifaceted upbringing that led to his impressive musical career. Raised in Zimbabwe, Mapfumo attended school in a former British colonial town and worked as a herd boy. After listening to Western music from bands such as The Beatles and Wilson Pickett, he taught himself how to play the guitar and formed a band that played various genres including pop from African countries, funk, and soul. His career took an unexpected turn when he released Hokoyo (Beware) and created songs that led to his detainment by the Rhodesian regime. However, after the liberation of Zimbabwe in 1978, the musician was able to start anew with his new band Blacks Unlimited while also releasing their first record Gwindingwe Rine Shumba (Lion in the Bush), which marks Mapfumo’s jubilant celebration of independence for both him and his country.