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Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited

Thomas Mapfumo, the Lion of Zimbabwe, will perform at HotHouse this upcoming Saturday night at 10 pm with his band the Blacks Unlimited.
The voice of the Zimbabwean liberation struggle returns to HotHouse on May 19. Thomas Mapfumo, jailed in the 1970s by the Ian Smith regime for his revolutionary lyrics, found two songs of his CD "Chumurenga Explosion" banned by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation giving him the unique distinction of being an artist whose work has been banned both by the colonial regime of twenty years ago and the government that came to power after the struggle for independence.
Growing up in Mbare, one of the poorest and toughtest townships of Salisbury, Mapfumo was in the center of the black protest agains the Rhodesian regime and its oppression and random acts of police violence. This, in conjunction with the high moral worldview maintained by his stepfather, active in both the Christian church and in Shona religious traditions, left a deep impression on Mapfumo. When he started the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band in 1972 he began to adapt songs from the ancient mbira repertoire and worked them into the band's Afro-rock repertoire. To sing in Shona was unusual and within the context of the political upheaval seen as a political statement. Mapfumo's devotion to traditional music would continue to cause him numerous difficulties with the Smith regime, including harassment and brief arrests. But in 1980 the tide turned and Robert Mugabe was elected president and Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited shared the stage in Salisbury (now Harare) with Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Mapfumo has remained critical of politics and continues to be a freedom figher for the people. His music has always been about culture more than about politics and he has decidedly chosen to focus his energies on Zimbabwe rather than on an international career. A Blacks Unlimited concert in Zimbabwe is an extraordinary communal event often lasting from evening to the dawn of the new day. His songs decry the corrupt current government, alcoholism, domestic violence, bring attention to the AIDS issue and other topics important to the people of Zimbabwe. Mapfumo's dedication has not been lost on the people and they recently chose him as "The Arts, Culture and Literature Person of the Century."
Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited recently collaborated with avant-jazz great Wadada Leo Smith and N'Da Kulture and on May 1, 2001 released the CD "Dreams and Secrets". Dreams and Secrets has polyrhythms colliding with avant-jazz melodicism that results in a heady journey through African and African-American music.



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