Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b '45, Marondera, Zimbabwe) Singer, composer, bandleader. As a Shona speaker growing up under white minority rule, he began via trad. drumming and mbira music, but soon played Western music: songs of the Beatles, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, occasionally during mid- '60s on the radio. He recorded his first song in Shona as the civil war was getting under way, but little was being heard of indigenous music; he formed the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band '73, which played mainly copyright music but experimented in Shona, and in '74 was approached by Teal Records: a series of Shona singles in chimurenga style ('music of struggle') made use of innuendo and trad. proverbs and earned eight gold discs in a row, also attracting government investigation. He formed the Acid Band '76 as lead singer and writer, also worked with the Pied Pipers, another top band; Hokoya '77 ('watch out') by the Acid Band was banned by the Smith government and Mapfumo was detained for 90 days; the government tried to discredit him with the liberation movement, allegedly forcing him to perform at a fund-raising event for Bishop Muzorewa, but he remained unbowed and popular; he formed the Blacks Unlimited '78, made LP Gwindingi Rine Shuma in Harare '80 (issued by Earthworks UK '86); after Zimbabwe's independence he was undoubtedly leader of the country's most popular band and signing with Earthworks enabled international breakthrough: The Chimurenga Singles 1976--1980 were compiled '84 (later on Shanachie CD) and followed by new albums Ndangariro (also on Shanachie) and Mabasa. He toured the UK '84--5, Mr Music '85 confirmed his stardom; LP and single Chimurenga For Justice were made in London; mellow single 'Hupenyu Wanyu' '86 on Rough Trade reappropriated the Bo Diddley beat. Corruption and Chamunorwa were on Mango CDs; Shumba on Earthworks/Caroline.