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.
Dancing with Devils
This chapter describes the paradoxical struggles of Mapfumo’s band and family during the early years of exile. The University of Ohio honors him as an “icon for liberty and justice,” even as band members opt to return home, dissatisfied with a meager life in America. Al Green proves a tough player, keen to see that Mapfumo’s many past arrangements with record companies and distributors are being respected. Green’s generosity helps Mapfumo’s family to establish themselves in Eugene and allows Mapfumo to replace key band members with new musicians from Zimbabwe. But Green’s animosity toward what he perceives as a world music mafia also alienates potential allies. Amid this rough and tumble, Mapfumo records the song “Marima Nzara (You Have Harvested Hunger),” a harsh critique of ZANU’s violent seizure of white farms. Mapfumo’s stance, and this song in particular, creates a powerful new enemy in Zimbabwe’s minister of information, Jonathan Moyo.