Lion Songs: Thomas Mapfumo and the Music That Made Zimbabwe
Banning Eyre is a freelance writer and guitarist and the senior editor and producer of the public radio program Afropop Worldwide. He is the author of In Griot Time: An American Guitarist in Mali, Playing With Fire: Fear and Self-Censorship in Zimbabwean Music, and Guitar Atlas: Africa, and the coauthor of AFROPOP! An Illustrated Guide to Contemporary African Music. Eyre is a contributor to National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and his writing has been published in Billboard, Guitar Player, Salon.com, the Boston Phoenix, CMJ, Option, Folk Roots, Global Rhythm, and other publications. He has also performed and recorded with Thomas Mapfumo.
Preamble: Chimurenga Nights
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.