Thomas Mapfumo

Decades: 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s


1945, Marondera, Zimbabwe. Mapfumo, known domestically as ‘The Lion Of Zimbabwe’, is to the music of the Shona people what Fela Kuti is to Nigeria or Franco to Zaire: simultaneously a modernizer and preserver of tradition, and the single most important figure on the local music scene for decades (in Mapfumo’s case, since the early 70s). Brought up for the first few years of his life in the small town of Marondera, his family moved to the capital, Salisbury (now Harare), in 1950, where he remained until he left school in 1964. He spent 1965 in neighbouring Zambia, before returning to Harare and starting to sing with local bands such as the Cosmic Dots and the Springfields. As their names suggest, both bands were heavily influenced by imported music, and Mapfumo acquired his early reputation for convincing cover versions of Elvis Presley, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke tracks. His first tentative step towards the musical revolution that he would instigate...

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