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World Music CD Reviews Africa

THOMAS MAPFUMO & THE BLACKS UNLIMITED

By CHRIS KING
Published March 3, 2006

Chimurenga Rebel
Manhungetunge

Imagine if Bob Marley were still alive and recording double albums of his best stuff with a band that sounded as good as the original Wailers...and he lived in Eugene, Oregon! That’s about what we have here. Mapfumo, who defined a sound and a tradition—an   electrified, full-band, guitar-rich adaptation of old Shona mbira melodies—outlived the revolution in Zimbabwe that named his music (Chimurenga) and most of the band members who helped him achieve that sound. He now lives about as far from the Zimbabwean bush (where that struggle was fought) as can be imagined, yet his powers as a songsmith, bandleader and arranger remain intact and unparalleled. There is not a single false note on this double album, other than Woody Aplanalp’s wah-wah guitar solo on one track, a pointlessly flashy departure from the detailed but never busy ensemble texture that characterizes the Blacks Unlimited. Banning Eyre’s concise liner notes enable the listener to connect the warm sounds to the raw protest always inherent in Mapfumo’s lyrics.