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.
This chapter opens the Rhodesia portion of the book. It describes the geography of this landlocked, southern African country and briefly surveys what is known of its precolonial history. The arrival of Cecil Rhodes in the late nineteenth century, and the establishment of Rhodesia, set the stage for Thomas Mapfumo’s birth in 1945. The chapter evokes the boy’s rural life on the “communal lands” in Rhodesia—farming, tending cattle, and coming to love traditional music—notably mbira. Mapfumo spent his first ten years in Marondera with his maternal grandparents, because his biological father could not pay the required dowry and so never married Mapfumo’s mother.