Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited, Chimurenga Explosion

Banning Eyre

By Banning Eyre

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

This 1999 album captures one of Africa's most important, innovative, and prolific bandleaders at a point of transition. Having inspired his country's '70s freedom fighters with his politically laced, guitar-powered reworkings of local traditions, especially Shona religious music using the iron-pronged mbira, Mapfumo later became a critic of the resulting regime. Two songs here, "Disaster" and "Mamvemne (Tatters)," were banned from state radio.

The pioneer of the hard-charging Zimbabwean chimurenga sound in his late glory.

By this time, the band is a veritable folk orchestra with three mbiras, two guitars, brass section, keyboard, bass, drums, percussion and vocals. Songs range in style from the breathless romp of "Kuenda Mbire," to the righteous swell of "Nhamo Zvakare," the roots trance of "Zvichapera," the quasi-rasta chant of "Musanyepe" and best of all "Chisi," perhaps the best mbira pop track ever, and a superb run for the late lead guitarist Joshua Dube.