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Mukanya retraces his musical roots

Thomas Mukanya Mapfumo
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HARARE – Fifteen years after performing at what used to be the ‘hallowed” venue of musicians of yesteryear — veteran Chimurenga music maestro Thomas Mapfumo — returns to Mushandirapamwe Hotel in Highfield for an emotional homecoming show tomorrow evening.

The 73-year-old musician will hold an all-night show which he yesterday described as “returning to my roots”.

Mapfumo first returned from his United States base in April 2018 after the lengthy hiatus.

The veteran music maestro — without doubt one of Zimbabwe’s greatest-ever artists — held a hugely successful once-off gig at Harare’s Glamis Arena before a massive crowd.

The show in Highfield tomorrow comes as Mapfumo has just finished his eventful “whirlwind” tour of Zimbabwe which started in the run up to Christmas.

“It has been a while since I last performed in Highfield, especially at Mushandirapamwe Hotel. Ndiko kwazvakatangira…ndikokuma roots (This is where it started… this is where my roots are)

“Even as we progress in life and move to enjoy better lives and buying better homes, we can never forget our roots.  If I were to die today, my coffin would make rounds in Highfield because that is my real home,” Mapfumo said yesterday.

A long time arch critic of the now-ousted former president Robert Mugabe, Mukanya, as Mapfumo is fondly known by his legion of fans, started his journey into musical stardom in Highfield during the liberation struggle.

He, together with prolific musicians like Marshal Munhumumwe, James Chimombe, John Chibadura, Simon Chimbetu, all late, and Oliver Mtukudzi, have their names permanently associated with Mushandirapamwe Hotel.

“Any musician of my time who performed either in Highfield will always have good memories. This was a township associated with the nationalism and music in the later stages of the armed struggle played its part in honouring the heroics of our brothers and sisters.

“It’s a pity that things have not really worked like we all had hoped since independence. Asi ndokupindana kwemazuvaka (These are changing times),” said Mapfumo.

Aggrey Tawengwa, show promoter and one of Mushandirapamwe Hotel directors, said Mapfumo’s “homecoming” was an honour of his supporters who live in high density suburbs.

“It’s an honour. He is a man who appreciates his humble beginnings. Having him here after nearly 15 years is great… but that serves to remind some of his colleagues who have turned their backs on performing in high density suburbs, that it’s always nice to be faithful to your roots,” Tawengwa said.

Mapfumo hastily departed from Zimbabwe in 2003, after police opened a probe into how he had acquired luxurious BMW vehicles.

Many political observers saw the probe as Mugabe’s tactic to hound one of his strident critics out of the country, particularly as Mapfumo’s departure coincided with the popularity of his well-received album, Chimurenga Rebel — which characterised the former president and his regime as murderers.

Chimurenga Rebel, released in 2002, contained songs which exposed the government’s chaotic agrarian reforms of the early 2000s, as well as the murders and violence which marred that year’s elections.

The album was eventually completely banned from being played on all ZBC radio and TV stations.

Mugabe’s 37 years of iron-fisted rule came to a crushing end on November 21, 2017 when he resigned moments after Parliament had started damaging proceedings to impeach

This followed Operation Restore Legacy which saw the nonagenarian and his then influential wife Grace being placed under house arrest.

Several Cabinet ministers linked to the Generation 40 (G40) faction of Zanu PF, which had coalesced around Grace, were also targeted in the operation which ended just before Christmas of that year.

The annihilated G40 — with the visible help of Mugabe and Grace — was, before the military intervention, locked in a bitter war with President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his supporters for the control of both Zanu PF and the country.