Thomas Mapfumo (pictured right)is some kind of an enigma, a myth of some sort. Here is a man with such a huge profile, and has his huge musical footprint in Zimbabwe and across the world, a man whose music inspired the struggle for the country’s independence, and a man who stands as one of the most senior and celebrated musicians.
By Tapiwa Zivira
Yet, when you sit down and talk to him, he is just some good old humble guy who is more than happy to informally share the story of his life over a cup of coffee.
Whenever he speaks, his signature smile, which has not faded with age, somewhat seems to appear at every stage of a conversation.
But make no mistake, the smile never takes away the cold, hard frankness and candid talk that Tafirenyika Muchadura has become associated with.
Anotaura chando Mukanya!
Yes, the man is always open about his feelings, beliefs and convictions, and for that, he has been loved and hated.
He is the unpredictable type, one who only last week, accused government of corruption while speaking on a local radio station which supposedly is sympathetic to government.
And because of that openness, he has survived decades of churning out music that he believes gives “voices to the voiceless.”
From the days of the liberation struggle, when he inspired the guerillas who were fighting against the colonial regime, Mukanya carved a name for himself such that by the time Zimbabwe became independent in 1980, he was already a hero of some sort.
But candid as always, Mukanya did not let his praise for the new government in the 1980s cloud his belief in and hope for a free, transparent society, such that by the 1990s, he was condemning the corrupt tendencies of the very government he had praised soon after the attainment of independence.
Many in government were not happy about it. They expected him to sing along and join the bandwagon of bootlickers.
Such is not the character of Mukanya. He always takes the side of the people, even if it is at a cost to his income, or security.
By 1999, when he released the Chimurenga Explosion album, which widely condemned the Robert Mugabe regime’s destruction of the country, his stay in Zimbabwe became untenable and four years later, he left to settle in exile, in Oregon, USA.
It became some form of an informal government and state media position that Mukanya was to be lambasted at every turn.
But he remained undeterred, and continued to sing about the ills of the government and the suppression of freedoms by the Mugabe regime.
A man that I believe is some kind of a musical prophet, Mukanya, in the song Masoja Nemapurisa, even warned Mugabe of the possibility of the army turning against him.
And it happened in November last year.
So, when he landed in Zimbabwe last Wednesday, on Zimbabwe’s independence day, it was historic.
And the state media attempted to portray this as a sign that things were coming back to normal in Zimbabwe.
Mapfumo being Tafirenyika, was not to be emotionally blackmailed.
He went on to accuse the government of being corrupt and urged them to be transparent for the country to move forward.
The enigma that he is, Mukanya, at over 70, is by no means young, and walks with a limp.
But, that should not fool anyone, because when it comes to getting it right on the stage, he can endure six hours of non-stop, polished performances.
The only disappointment is that so far he is just scheduled to hold one show, and if there is room for more, that should be exploited.
I believe a family show is necessary so that we can take our children and give them the chance to see the Mapfumo that we always play for them!