Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited

Chimurenga Explosion

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While the two discs on Anonymous Web prior to Chimurenga Explosion have been substandard in Mapfumo's discography, Chimurenga Explosion is a return to form, reminiscent of the extraordinary depth and reflectiveness of releases like Hondo and Chamunorwa. The recording was roughly split between a studio in Oregon and one in Harare, but the American setting doesn't seem to hamper Mapfumo in any way, and his band is in top form, relaxed and upbeat. In fact, this disc exudes a general good-natured optimism that hasn't been present in Mapfumo's music since Vanhu Vatema, and Chimurenga Explosion may in fact be one of his happiest. From the very first notes of "Musanyepere," you know you're in good hands. "Mamvemne" begins with the classic Mapfumo formula of a short introduction pausing to let the mbiras introduce the main groove. And Mapfumo's falsetto singing in the chorus of "Nherera" is simply heavenly, worth the entire album by itself. Besides the band as a whole, guitarist Joshua Dube stands out as a star of this recording. He truly captures the spirit of both Jonah Sithole and Eprhaim Karimaura, who both buoyed the Blacks Unlimited over long periods of time. Dube's sparkling yet mellow tone and instinctive sense of the appropriate thing to play set him apart and elevate the music to its status as one in a long line of classic Mapfumo releases. The other amazing strength of Chimurenga Explosion is its strong vocal forces, demonstrated best on "Zvichapera," where the call and response could be taken from any of Mapfumo's many great recordings of the '70s and '80s.

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