Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Music: "Mukanya" Comes Home; Thomas Mapfumo's Triumphant Zimbabwe Show

Thomas Mapfumo, holding a copy of a July 1984 edition of a magazine featuring his cover story. After 18 years in self-imposed exile, one of Zimbabwe's most popular and outspoken musicians, has returned home.
Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images
-NPR Music
After a 14-year absence, Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited rocked until dawn at Glamis Arena, an open-air stadium packed with some 20,000 fans of three generations. Mapfumo — Mukanya to his fans, a reference to his totem, the baboon — moved his family out of the country in 2000, to escape turmoil and harassment under the regime of Robert Mugabe. Mugabe and members of his ZANU-PF party were frequent targets in Mapfumo's barbed songs and public statements. But since Mugabe's military-enabled ouster last November, efforts have been underway to get Mapfumo back to the country and in front of the audience that loves him most.
In Harare, Zimbabwe, on Saturday, April 28, it happened.

Mapfumo last performed in Zimbabwe in April, 2004. For fans of an artist who once prowled the stages of Harare four or five nights a week, it's been a long dry spell. In the meantime, a whole generation of Zimbabweans has come of age knowing his music mostly from their parents' CD players and in public transport vans, or
 kombies. But it was clear from advance ticket sales that the interest in this historic concert was intense."I thought maybe I wasn't going to be able to come back here while I was still alive," mused Mapfumo the day before the big show. "But by the grace of God, I'm here."

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