Thomas Mapfumo

The Singles Collection: 1977-1986

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Thomas Mapfumo and his band, Blacks Unlimited, provided the soundtrack of rebellion in Zimbabwe. His records and concerts helped fuel the fire and kept the spirit alive, and his chimurenga ("struggle") music -- rooted in Shona tradition, but still sounding thoroughly modern -- packed an emotional punch -- enough to get him jailed for three months by the colonial authorities. After independence in 1980, Mapfumo's songs were in praise of the new leaders (although that would change later in the decade). This collection of his Zimbabwe singles comes from a prolific and emotional period when the music most definitely did matter in a very vital way. While his sound was based on the mbira, or thumb piano, Mapfumo used guitars to imitate the repetitive parts during this period, to good, even startling, effect. The lyrics, especially on the earlier songs, are made up of Shona deep proverbs, which would make no sense to white authorities, but which the rebels understood all too well. Also listen for the cock-a-doodle.