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Thomas Mapfumo

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Thomas Mapfumo
Thomas Mapfumo
Born (1945-07-02) July 2, 1945 (age 72)
Nationality Zimbabwe
Education Donnybrook Primary School
  • Musician.
Spouse(s) Verna
Children Janet Mapfumo, Charmaine Mapfumo, Chiedza Mapfumo, Matinyanya Mapfumo, Tapfumaneyi Mapfumo

Thomas Tafirenyika Mapfumo, also known by his nicknames "Mukanya" or "gandanga", (born 2 July 1945) is a Zimbabwean Chimurenga music singer, songwriter who is based in the USA. Mapfumo is one of Zimbabwe's top musicians. His genre of music is called Chimurenga (Shona for Revolution ) and many of his songs comment on socio-political issues. Since 2001, Mapfumo went on a self-imposed exiled in the United States of America claiming his family could be harmed by the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) government. His music career spans decades having started in the early 60s.


Mapfumo was born in Marondera on 2 July 1945. He lived with his grandparents. His grandfather was a musician. His family was well experienced in the Shona traditional music of celebration songs accompanied by drums and Mbira.[1] In Marondera, he attended Chiwonana School.[2] After moving from Marondera to Mabvuku, Thomas did his primary education at Donnybrook School in the then Salisbury. He later moved to Mbare. Mapfumo is married to Verna. He has two daughters, Janet and Charmaine from his first marriage. He has three other children from his second marriage to Verna – Chiedza who studied Economics at the University of Oregon, Matinyanya and son Tapfumaneyi.[2]

Early Music Career

Mapfumo has said he got his first break to perform music with a quartet called Zoot Brothers (called Zutu in other reports) in Mabvuku while he was still in School. After hearing the Beatles and Wilson Pickett in the early '60s, Mapfumo taught himself guitar. But he also sang songs from African countries such as style known as Rhumba from the then Zaire.[1][3]

In Mbare Mapfumo was trained by Kenneth Mataka, Laina Mataka and their son, Edison Mataka whom Mapfumo described later as a "great musician".[2] According to Laina, Mapfumo had tried music with the Zutu Brothers but failed before he approached them for help in 1962.[4]

He joined the Mataka family (Father, Mother and Son) to become the Cosmic Four Dots playing rock and roll music after Little Richard and Elvis Presley and then moved onto the Springfields in 1966 with which he recorded songs at the then Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation until 1973 when Daram Karanga head hunted him for the formation of the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band in Mhangura. It was with the Hallelujah Chicken Runn band where his traditional style became real traditional by the inclusion of guitars that produced mbira sounds.[4]

When he left Mhangura, Mapfumo had no band and would hang around until he met the late Jonah Sithole at Jamaica Inn. Jonah was leading the Drifters, a band he had brought from Mutare in 1974. The band had changed its name from Pepsi Combo to Vibrations and the Drifters. Eventually they formed The Black Spirits together with Jonah Sithole.[4] But the Black Spirits was to be disbanded and the Acid Band formed without Sithole.

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The Acid Band itself was short lived and gave way to a Blacks Unlimited again with Sithole in 1978. Their first album as Blacks Unlimited was Gwindigwi Rineshumba (There Are Lions In This Wilderness). Mapfumo has worked with the Blacks Unlimited band to date. He developed his mbira pop sound with guitarists Jonah Sithole and Leonard “Picket” Chiyangwa, bassist Charles Makokova, and others. Mapfumo’s lyrics reflected the concerns of the people around him such as the hardships of rural life, young men heading to the bush to fight, and a rising sense of indignation at white rulers who had systematically devalued Shona culture for four generations.[1]

The guerrilla fighters had taken the name “Chimurenga”, Shona for “struggle”, and Mapfumo decided to call his new sound “Chimurenga music”. Chimurenga songs captured the imaginations of black people at that time. Mapfumo dedicated most of his songs to the fight of the Liberation struggle.[1]

Mapfumo's music and its popularity with black people led to tensions with the white government and in 1977 was sent to prison for subversion. To obtain his release, Mapfumo is said to have agreed to perform for the white government, but at the concert he sang only his most revolutionary songs, and said later:

"I told them that since I'd been in detention, I didn't have time to write new ones." [3]

Chimurenga music after Zimbabwe's Independence

At the attainment of Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, Mapfumo's group shared the stage with Bob Marley and the Wailers at the national celebration of Zimbabwean independence. That concert is credited with the transition from a local musician to an international one, as he landed some international recording contracts.[1]

In 1987 Mapfumo performed with Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen at the 1987 Human Rights Concert in Harare, Zimbabwe.[5] Thomas Mapfumo toured worldwide mostly USA and UK. In 1989 when he saw the new black political leaders as not serving the people, he started penning songs that opposed them. He warned young people not to let themselves be used by dirty politicians and in that year released the album Corruption.[1] Throughout the 90s and 2000s Mapfumo continued to pen and sing some anti-government songs releasing such albums as Chimurenga '98, Chimurenga Explosion , Toi Toi (Thomas Mapfumo alubum) | Toi Toi and Chimurenga Rebel Manhungetunge1. The album Chimurenga Explosion, for example, which was released in 2000, had the following songs: Musanyepere (translated, "Don't Lie"), Mamvemve (translated, "Tatters"), Disaster, and Nhamo Zvakare (translated, "Back to poverty"), among others.

Self Imposed Exile to the USA

In 2000 Mapfumo moved his family to the United States on self imposed Exile claiming that his life was in danger from the ruling political party, ZANU PF.[1] Writers at government owned newspapers , especially The Herald, however dismissed his claims as exaggerated and that he was no under threat as he would come to Zimbabwe annually for shows from 2001 until 2005 when he stopped. Mapfumo was linked to auto-theft ring and police said that they will pick him up for an unclosed docket involving allegedly stolen cars.[4]

In 2012 he told the UK based New Zimbabwe blog that he would not be returning home to Zimbabwe because he would not want to live in a country in which he's rich in a sea of poverty. He also said he didn't want to ask people who are struggling to just get by to pay to watch him sing. Mapfumo said his return to Zimbabwe was unlikely with President Robert Mugabe still in charge.[6]


Chipo Ndechangu

Live performance


Mapfumo still continues to tour in America, Europe, and Africa.



  1. 1978 Hokoyo
  2. 1980 Gwindingwi Rine Shumba
  3. 1984 Ndangariro
  4. 1984 Mabasa
  5. 1984 Chimurenga Singles
  6. 1985 Mr. Music
  7. 1986 Chimurenga for Justice
  8. 1989 Corruption
  9. 1991 Spirit of the Eagle
  10. 1991 Shumba: Vital Hits of Zimbabwe
  11. 1991 Chamunorwa
  12. 1994 Vanhu Vatema
  13. 1994 Hondo
  14. 1995 Chimurenga Forever: The Best of Thomas Mapfumo
  15. 1996 The Singles Collection: 1977-1986
  16. 1997 Chimurenga: African Spirit Music
  17. 1999 Live at El Rey
  18. 1999 Chimurenga '98
  19. 2000 Chimurenga Explosion
  20. 2001 12 from 5: Collection, Vol. 2
  21. 2001 12 from 5: Collection, Vol. 1
  22. 2001 Dreams & Secrets
  23. 2002 Collected Classic Cuts and Rare Tracks
  24. 2002 Chimurenga Rebel/Manhungetunge
  25. 2002 Toi Toi
  26. 2004 Choice Chimurenga
  27. 2004 Chaputika/Live in Milton Keynes '04
  28. 2005 Spirits to Bite Our Ears: The Singles Collection 1977-1986
  29. 2005 Rise Up
  30. 2006 Sweet Chimurenga
  31. 2006 Zimbabwe Mozambique
  32. 2006 Roots Chimurenga
  33. 2006 Chimurenga Masterpiece
  34. 2006 Chimurenga Movement
  35. 2007 The Long Walk
  36. 2009 African Classics: Thomas Mapfumo
  37. 2010 Exile
  38. lacks/Chimurenga Singles Unlimited Ndangariro
  39. Mr. Music (Africa)


Mapfumo was Honoured with the with a Master's Degree in Music from the University of Zimbabwe. In January 2001 he received an honorary doctorate degree by Ohio State University (USA).[7]

Picture Gallery


  1. Artist of the Year from the American World Music Awards in 1999
  2. Zimbabwe's Person of the Century in the Art's Award in 2000
  3. AFIM's Best World Contemporary CD Award in March 2001 for the his 2000 release Chimurenga Explosion [8]

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Thomas Mapfumo Biography, Thomas Mapfumo Official Website, Retrieved: 9 March 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 This is The Truth About: Thomas Mapfumo, New Zimbabwe, Retrieved: 9 March 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 J. Poet, Artist Biography - Thomas Mapfumo, ALL MUSIC, Retrieved on 9 March 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Wonder Guchu, The day Thomas Mapfumo told me that tokurova nechipepa chako ichocho, Intimacy with Zim musicians, Published: 29 September 2011, Retrieved: 9 March 2014
  5. Dwight Woodward, "Bob Marley of Zimbabwe" to Receive Honorary Degree, Ohio University Media Services, Published: June 7, 2001, Retrieved on 9 March 2014
  6. Why I'm not returning to Zimbabwe: Mapfumo, New Zimbabwe, Published 30 July 2012, Retrieved 9 March 2014
  7. Thomas Mapfumo, World Music Central, retrieved 9 March 2014
  8. Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited, retrieved 9 March 2014