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Writing in the first person, the author describes a night at a Thomas Mapfumo show in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1997. The account introduces key members of Mapfumo’s band, the Blacks Unlimited, and presents the broad outlines of Mapfumo’s story. The author describes the sacred Shona musical instrument, the mbira, which plays an important role when it is adapted in Mapfumo’s secular music. The concert described in these pages takes place at a pivotal moment when Mapfumo is beginning to openly criticize the regime of President Robert Mugabe. As such, this account prefigures the arc of the narrative to come. This account also clarifies the personal nature of the author’s friendship and musical collaboration with Mapfumo.

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