Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited

A giant of African music, Thomas Mapfumo essentially wrote the soundtrack for the independence movement that transformed the white government of Rhodesia into the nation of Zimbabwe. For his efforts, he was jailed by the regime of Ian Smith and had his music silenced, but emerged triumphant, honored as the Lion of Zimbabwe, only to eventually run afoul of the Mugabe government for his outspoken criticism of corruption. Transcending all the politics is Mapfumo's wonderfully intoxicating music, which he dubbed "chimurenga," variously translated as "struggle" or "liberation war." He created it by reworking the traditional rhythms and melodies that had been played on the mbira or thumb piano for guitar, at the same time writing new material that eschewed Western pop and tapped traditional sounds but with fresh themes. Mapfumo and his family currently live in exile in Oregon, his music again banned by Mugabe in Zimbabwe. But he continues to write and record, reportedly recently working on a new album in South Africa. With DJ Paul Harding.
Sun., Feb. 15, 7 p.m., 2009

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