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.
In this chapter, Mapfumo moves to the capital city—then Salisbury, now Harare—to join the family of his mother, step-father, and step-siblings. In the context of simmering nationalist rebellion, teenaged Mapfumo becomes a singer, at first covering rock ’n’ roll hits with a series of local bands. The chapter juxtaposes the worsening situation in the 1960s and early ’70s as the nationalist struggle turns increasingly violent. Mapfumo sings his first songs in Shona. When he moves to the Mhangura mine to sing and drum with the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band, he and guitarist Joshua Dube begin to experiment with adapting mbira music for rock band instrumentation.