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.
Too Many Ghosts
A series of untimely deaths shake Zimbabwe’s music community, and the Blacks Unlimited. Particularly difficult for Mapfumo is the loss of his bass player and close friend Charles Makokowa. The chapter details a somewhat improvised 1995 U.S. tour, in which Mapfumo performs without guitars, keyboards, or horns—essentially as an mbira band with bass and drums. The tour showcases Mapfumo’s versatility and capacity to adapt, but it is again fraught with financial mismanagement. The chapter portrays Mapfumo at a moment of relative isolation and vulnerability, having lost many peers. The death of Bhundu Boys star Biggie Tembo and Mapfumo’s reaction are...