02 July 2007

Monday's mp3: Happy Birthday, Chimurenga Man

Thomas Mapfumo was born on this day in Marondera, Zimbabwe. Known as "the Lion of Zimbabwe," Mapfumo popularized a style of guitar based on mbira patterns and is also known for his fierce protest music. That's one of the reasons he's currently living in Oregon, instead of his native country. That and, one might surmise, the fact that Zimbabwe currently faces the world's highest inflation rate (4500 percent) and chronic food shortages.

This song is a thinly disguised rant against Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe. According to the song notes, "the father talks too much. He is always scolding people, and has chased away the workers, the farmers, and in so doing, he has invited famine and poverty into his homestead. He will pay the price for his big mouth, but it is his children who will suffer more."

[mp3] Thomas Mapfumo: Marima Nzara (You Have Ploughed Hunger)
From the album Choice Chimurenga

Many of Mapfumo's albums are available for preview and download at Calabash, but this one is available only from South African label Sheer Sound. It's a laudable collection, about which the BBC says:

Listening to his best work like this, it's apparent how he's changed his sound, making it punchier. He's added brass here and there, bumped up the bass, and sometimes it seems as if he's spent a lot of time lately listening to roots reggae and adapting its sound for his purposes. Mbiras have remained the heartbeat of his sound, enhanced by hypnotic guitar lines and thick grooves under Mapfumo's commanding voice. Electric mbira and deep undulating bass lines drive the relentlessly upbeat music, but the sunnyness of the musical form detracts not a whit from the powerful protest lyrics and social awareness at the heart of every track.

Mapfumo also has a brand new album out called The Long Walk.

Happy Birthday, Thomas!


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