Thomas Mapfumo is one of Zimbabwe’s most revolutionary artists. He completely changed the landscape for African pop music in Zimbabwe by writing his own music for his songs. Up to that point, songs in the traditional style were based on tunes that had been handed down for generations. Mapfumo is known as the “Lion of Zimbabwe” and “Mukanya” for his popularity and the political influence he conveys through his music. He is also known as the “King of Chimurenga” (Shona for “struggle”), a style he created and made famous. His lyrics made him a household name during the civil war against the white minority rulers, however this led to him being jailed. After being put in prison in 1977 for subversion, Mapfumo agreed to perform for the ruling party in order to obtain his release. When he got up on stage, he performed his most revolutionary songs and claimed that since he had been in detention, he didn’t have time to write any new tunes.
Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited will be in NYC on Tuesday, July 17th for a free show at Live Sounds at the World Financial Center Plaza, 220 Vesey Street, at 5:45pm. Mapfumo currently lives in the U.S. in exile due to political unrest under the Mugabe regime. He is an incredible musical visionary and fearless social critic who is considered to be one of the greatest African bandleaders of the past century. He will be joined by the Blacks Unlimited, featuring mbira (thumb piano), bass, guitar, percussion, and keyboard. Watch a great live video of “Moyo Wangu,” filmed in 1994, below. Don’t miss the chance to see this revolutionary artist on July 17th.