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.
Breaking the Cycle
This chapter details the events that lead Mapfumo to move his family out of Zimbabwe. It draws on the author’s firsthand accounts during the six-month period he lived in Zimbabwe (described in the Preamble). The author meets former Rhodesian president Ian Smith. Smith professes no knowledge or memory of Mapfumo. Meanwhile, Mapfumo is performing relentlessly, drawing huge, devoted crowds, hungry for the unique emotional release only his music can offer. Amid ever more aggressive government tactics to quell dissent, the author stresses Mapfumo’s courage in continuing to protest. For most Zimbabwean artists, the notion of criticizing leaders of the liberation struggle still feels dangerous. But Mapfumo is undeterred, insisting that his loyalty is, and has always been, to the people, not to any party or leader.