Banning Eyre is a freelance writer and guitarist and the senior editor and producer of the public radio program
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 described. Back in Zimbabwe, Jonah Sithole, nearing his own death, rejoins the band for the third and last time. The chapter concludes with politics as Robert Mugabe’s coerced payment to the families of “war veterans” triggers over a decade of severe economic decline in Zimbabwe.