Zimbabwe: Thomas Mapfumo’s liberation music


Part 1: The liberation war years.

Part 2: The Mugabe years.

Produced by and Banning Eyre

Aired January 24 and February 7, 2013 –There above radio documentaries, produced by the US world music station Afropop Worldwide, explore the legendary career of Thomas Mapfumo, a singer, composer and bandleader whose 1970s music set the stage for the birth of a new nation, Zimbabwe. Using rare, unreleased recordings and recollections by Mapfumo, key band members and prominent Zimbabweans who lived through the liberation struggle against the racist white regime of Ian Smith, this program traces the development of “chimurenga” (liberation) music.

Part 2 of the story picks up at the dawn of the country’s independence in 1980. The program focuses on key songs from Thomas Mapfumo’s vast post-independence catalogue, beginning with his celebration of victory, and his warnings about “dissidents” out to destabilize a young nation struggling for unity.

The 1988 song “Corruption” officially opens Mapfumo’s rift with the regime of Robert Mugabe, turning a government financial scandal into a pop culture sensation. 1999’s “Mamvemve” accuses leaders of betraying the promises of the liberation struggle and reducing a rich country to “tatters,” and 2003’s “Marima Nzara” takes the government on over Zimbabwe’s most prolonged and vexing challenge—reclaiming land stolen from Africans by Rhodesian settlers over a century of colonial rule. In all, this is an amazing saga of a popular singer’s evolution from enthusiastic booster to caustic critic of a young African government.

Central to the program, are research materials gathered by Mapfumo biographer Banning Eyre, and commentary by ethnomusicologist Thomas Turino, author of Nationalists, Cosmopolitans, and Popular Music in Zimbabwe. One of the great stories of African music’s role in history is told here as never before.

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