Mukanya comes to Jo’burg: Are you ready?

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JOHANNESBURG — With his unmistakable deep voice, the legend of Chimurenga music, Thomas Mapfumo, speaking on the phone from his United States base, could not wait to challenge his legion of fans when asked about his upcoming shows in South Africa this September.

REPORT BY TAPIWA ZIVIRA

His challenge came in the form of a question, a rhetorical one.

Quoting verses from his song, Are you Ready? off his latest 12-track album, Danger Zone, he asked, rather calmly: “Are you ready, for the good times?”

He was now half-singing, half-talking, sounding more like he was talking directly to all his fans in Southern Africa: “Are you ready to dance through the night?”

With no further words, the internationally-acclaimed Mapfumo ended the conversation, but he had done his part, and that is giving a promise that despite being 70, he was coming in full force to make the people dance through the night.

Fresh from a successful United Kingdom tour where he made crowds scream for more ‘when he played the last song’, Mukanya, as he is called after his monkey totem, all but confirmed that preparations for the South Africa shows were now going at an accelerated rate.

Thomas Mapfumo during his recent show in Birmingham
Thomas Mapfumo during his recent show in Birmingham

The Lion of Zimbabwe, as Mapfumo is fondly known, will be at Baseline in Johannesburg on Friday September 4, before flying to Cape Town for another show.

This is part of his tour to promote Danger Zone, an album described by The Daily Emerald of Oregon, United States, as so wonderful that “the grooves never stop, chugging into the distance like freight trains”.

Danger Zone is a mixed bag of music that comes with a variety of beat styles meant to appeal to a cross section of listeners, but in each song, Mapfumo maintains his signature touch of blending in the new and the old, while keeping his politically and socially conscious message alive.

It is described by respected political scientist and music critic Takura Zhangazha as one album in which Mapfumo bridged the divide between his local and international audiences.

“Chimurenga music taps into sharp consciousness for global consumption while simultaneously talking to his own domestic audience that he has hope and belief that eventually things will work out in Zimbabwe,” he said.

The majority of the songs touch on the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe, a country where 91-year-old President Robert Mugabe has presided over an unabated economic collapse and political upheaval.

While focus is on the fresh album, Mukanya, known for holding marathon shows, will not leave his fans without playing some of his golden classics like Mukadzi waMukoma, Tamba Zumba Nashe, Gwindingwi Rine Shumba and Chiruzevha Chapera among many other songs.

The tour, which is dubbed Zim Music Festival, will be unique in that Mukanya will be blending in with other young and rising musicians like dancehall’s Lady Squanda, Freeman and Kinnah Jay C among others.

Mapfumo has always implored rising Zimbabwean musicians to be original and the show will hopefully afford those playing alongside him to take a leaf or two from the guru of Zimbabwean music.

With posters advertising the show already up in Johannesburg, Mukanya’s spokesperson Blessing Vava said that so far most of the logistics were in place and called on Chimurenga music fans to “come in numbers as Mukanya samples his new album Danger Zone for the first time on African soil”.

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