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
This chapter describes the Blacks Unlimited at the peak of their success. Mapfumo is receiving strong international press and excellent bookings, including at the WOMAD festival in the UK and elsewhere. The band solidifies its three-mbira sound and releases one of its finest albums ever, Chamunorwa, in 1991. Riding high, Mapfumo buys a soccer franchise, parlaying his lifelong devotion to the sport, and his desire to help young men from his old neighborhood—the Mbare township of Harare. Key musicians perceive this as an overreach and resent having to perform to support the band. Chartwell Dutiro leaves the band under a cloud, accused of witchcraft. Manager Ken Kutsch also leaves, unhappy with band finances, which he cannot control. Despite setbacks, Mapfumo continues to produce consequential music, including one of Zimbabwe’s first songs directly warning about AIDS, which is taking the lives of Zimbabweans—including musicians—at an alarming rate.
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