After 60 years, Thomas Mapfumo to retire from stage music

Thomas Mapfumo to retire from stage music

by Tulip Charowa
Published: Last Updated on

FANS of Chimurenga music legend Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo habe less than a year left before they won’t see him performing on stage again.

Mapfumo recently performed with his signature band The Blacks Unlimited in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Hundreds packed into the Schotsche Kloof Civic Centre in Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, on 20 November to watch the vocalist and guitarist perform, cheering as the 76-year-old elder came out on stage.

But all that will end soon as his retirement is looming. There are plans for a 77th birthday celebration in the United Kingdom in July 2022. It will mark his retirement from live performances, although he will continue with studio recordings.

It’s not clear where he will want to spend the rest of his life, but what’s clear is that he misses Zimbabwe. Twenty years on foreign brings a lot of homesickness.

“Home is home. And that’s where the heart is always. You’re always thinking of home, where your roots are … where you’re coming from. Your friends, your relatives, that’s where they are,” Mapfumo says.

Mapfumo has lived in self-imposed exile in Eugene, Oregon, in the United States since 2002. “I like it there, but that’s not my home,” he says.

Mukanya – as he is respectfully referred to, denoting his family totem name meaning baboon – is one of the most innovative African musicians.

He championed chimurenga (revolutionary struggle) music in sound and political philosophy.

Mapfumo traces his successe to humble beginnings while growing up in rural Marondera in the 1950s.

He taught himself to play the guitar and loved rock and roll in his early years, playing mostly covers, as was the norm in Zimbabwe at the time.

This would change after a pivotal moment during a battle of the bands contest in Harare in the late 1960s, while playing in one of his first bands, The Springfields.

““As a boy I grew up in the rural areas, where there was a lot of traditional music. I was a herdboy herding cattle and goats. I listened to a lot of mbira music and also drumming and singing. I thought, is this music not danceable?”

  • via New Frame
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