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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited

By Paul-Emile Comeau
Published August 1, 2005

Chimurenga Rebel/Manhungetunge

Imagine if Bob Marley were alive, recording double albums of top quality with a band as good as the original Wailers--and he lived in exile in Eugene, Oregon. That's close to 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 Zimbabwean revolution naming his music (Chumurenga) and most of the band members who helped him achieve that sound. He now lives about as far from the Zimbabwean bush as can be imagined, yet his powers as a songsmith, bandleader and arranger remain intact and unparalleled.