Chimurenga Explosion: Poetic Wisdom for Social, Cultural & Political Justice
Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited


Millennium Tour: June-July-August 2000

Thomas MapfumoWhen the history of in Zimbabwe is written, when its Hall of Fame beckons its most priced freedom fighters and social commentators, Thomas Mapfumo will command a special place in that universe. Rarely is any country blessed with the citizenship of Mapfumo's freedom fighting spirit and his uncompromising cultural evangelism.

For more than thirty years, His Indigenous Highness, the master of Chimurenga music, Mapfumo has defined and charted a musical course that is socially responsible, culturally uplifting and politically shrewd. As founder and commander-in-chief of the sixteen member Blacks Unlimited ensemble, the pride of the downtrodden working class of Zimbabwe, Mapfumo has been the bearer of the torch for independence as well as Shona cultural awareness, pride and wisdom for almost a generation. Indeed Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited are a musical dynasty in its fourth decade.

With a constant biting social and political commentary in his music, he has become the de facto Senior Professor of Political Innuendo as well as Dean for the Chimurenga University of Social, Cultural and Political Awareness. Conducting his lectures, live and direct from Seven Miles Motel, and many other local campuses outside Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare during most weekends, Mapfumo engages his loyal students, fans, admirers and foes alike - in a collective and participatory experience of a spiritual dimension.

Mapfumo is a poet and master of innuendo. Perhaps the best social and political commentator whose choice of Shona folklore, proverbial garb and idiomatic expression not only conveys powerful messages, but he manages to not defame the character of his subjects. Indeed Mapfumo has been an inspiration to many to who aspire to defend and uphold indigenous cultures and democratic principles.

Against a backdrop of a society in a constant pull towards western values and their own cultural denial, Mapfumo has consistently and persistently fought an uphill battle to repair Zimbabwe's cultural amputation. His era has spanned one of the most turbulent periods in Zimbabwe's history (1972-1980) as well as post-independence Zimbabwe. As we begin a new millennium, Mapfumo continues to be the voice of the poor, he continues to check the social pulse of Shona culture as much as he records and comments on Zimbabwe's political temperature. In the 70's, Mapfumo was jailed by Ian Smith's apartheid regime in the then Rhodesia for his outspoken lyrics against that government.

During the jubilant years following Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, Mapfumo celebrated the new found freedom with songs like "Zimbabwe Yewatema" (Zimbabwe for Africans) and indeed gave due respect and honor to its leadership. By the late 1980s, corruption had become rampant within Zimbabwe's political establishment. Mapfumo would not let this fact go unchecked - in 1988 he released his hit single "Corruption". After publishing "Corruption" Mapfumo was accused by his fellow citizens of being divisive. However Zimbabwe opposition parties ignited the corruption thread and challenged the government to address reports of corrupt politicians. The government was forced to set up a commission to investigate illegal purchase and sale of cars by politicians - a political milestone known as Willow-gate in Zimbabwe's history. It was not until then that the rest of Zimbabwe's general population began to appreciate Mapfumo's message. He emerged as a visionary , social commentator and political observer. Virtually banned in Zimbabwe, Mapfumo could not release an album of the same name in his own home country. His "Corruption" album was release in the USA by Mango, instead.

In the late 1980s and and early 1990, while the government of Zimbabwe was keeping a tight lip on the staggering AIDS statistics in Zimbabwe, Mapfumo burst on the scene with his socially responsible hit song, "Mukondombera" (Plague), warning against AIDS. While breaking a social taboo, Mapfumo forced all Zimbabweans to face the impending danger and talk about AIDS. It gave most Zimbabweans a vehicle for addressing a national crisis. All of a sudden Mukondombera and AIDS became household words the society was willing to talk about.

Mapfumo's gift for language, literature is unsurpassed. While it has taken long for his fellow citizens, the Shona society-at-large to embrace Mapfumo's message, the current economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe has convinced the masses that Mapfumo' message has always been a window into a dysfunctional and corrupt political establishment. Indeed an accurate observation of the society' ills.

Generally, Zimbabwe political establishment has chosen to ignore Mapfumo's message - until his latest release - Chimurenga Explosion (Anonymous Records - Anon 0743). Describing Zimbabwe's current economic crisis as a "Disaster", and the country in general like a shirt in tatters ("Mamvemve"), Mapfumo's critics in the government took notice and forced these two songs' removal from the playlist on government controlled radio stations. On the same album, Mapfumo defiantly warns the politicians that the end will come ("Zvichapera"). In a haunting call and response style, in the same manner he warned Ian Smith of the demise of the Rhodesian regime, Mapfumo, in his characteristic innuendo style, warns Zimbabwe's current political establishment that their era will, too come to an end. The final and hopeful song on the new CD - the song gives hope to the ever patient Zimbabweans that this too will come to an end - and maybe better days will come to the land of Chaminuka and Nehanda, Zimbabwe's spiritual guardian's. The recently concluded parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe confirm Mapfumo's prophecy, the beginning of the end is in progress. Indeed, this era will too, come to an end. that Mapfumo embarks on an ambitious Millennium Tour and Chimurenga evangelism through Europe, the United States and Canada. Don't miss a legend.


© 2004 Solomon Murungu & Zambuko Projects® Unlimited