The Lion of Zimbabwe

Apr 21, 2010


"Our music speaks for the people. We are influenced by the people who are struggling at home. Their voices have been silenced. Someone has got to talk."-Thomas Mapfumo

Courageous: to have a quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain.
: a person who has possession of a new venture or idea.
Musical: talented in or devoted to music.
Exiled: expelled from a country, or from a person's native land.
Thomas Mapfumo: all of the above.

Thomas Mapfumo is a musician, political activist, and an admirable human being. He was born in 1945 in Marondera, Zimbabwe, but now lives in exile in the United States. Through his many decades of making music, Mapfumo has become a cultural icon and is known as the "Lion of Zimbabwe."

This "Lion" is responsible for the creation of a genre of music called Chimurenga, which means "struggle" in Shona. The composition is traditional Shona mbira music, but played with modern electric instrumentation. Characterized by revolutionary lyrics, Mapfumo's songs openly called for an aggressive overthrow of the government. They reflected the uneasiness of the people around him, speaking of the hardships in many of the rural areas, the young men fighting in the war for independence, and the rising resentment against rulers who had failed to recognize the Shona culture for too many years.

In time, the government banned Mapfumo's music from the radio and put him in a prison camp in 1979. Large demonstrations occurred in protest of his arrest, forcing the government to release him three months later.

Mapfumo's imprisonment and its uproar became major roles in the 1980 fight for free elections. But when Mapfumo continued to aggressively sing about government issues in the late '80s, he became the aim of numerous administrative investigations and ultimately was forced into exile.

Continuing to sing and speak about the issues with Zimbabwe's government, Mapfumo remains a cultural hero and icon in Zimbabwe. On April 29th he will team up with dancer Nora Chipaumire in lions will roar, swans will fly, angels will wrestle heaven, rains will break: gukurahundi, a dynamic hour-long performance of live music, dance, and projected video. A true entertainer, fearless critic, and "Lion," Mapfumo has yet to disappoint. Don't miss it.


- Allyson Taubenheim
  Marketing Intern


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