Legendary musician Thomas Mapfumo’s new album Rise Up, due to be released in June 2006, is guaranteed to be banned from Zimbabwean state radio the moment it airs in Harare's record bars and flea markets. Having music banned is an experience Mapfumo associates with the late 1970s, the twilight years of the Ian Smith regime - now his people are suffering a new strain of tyranny under Robert Mugabe.
Mapfumo draws on such a broad array of genres—Shona spirit music, African jazz, classic R&B, rock, reggae, and a variety of local Zimbabwean genres—that he sometimes settles on peculiar hybrids. Although The Blacks Unlimited has changed steadily over the years—no fewer than ten key members have died, many from AIDS, since 1990—there is a striking consistency to the sound. Returning to New York from his sold out show at Satalla this fall, Mapfumo, in virtual exile from his homeland, endures. His voice, once described as a ‘bass whisper’ with its defiant moral authority, has transferred gracefully now from a brash youthfulness to the intonations of a serene elder.
In the summer of 2005, Mapfumo opened the Live 8 concert in Cornwall, England. His performance was captured on the new DVD "Africa Calling: Live 8 at Eden." Tickets $20/$22