Mapfumo sighted in Toronto

One of us, a journalist at a leading weekly in my country, Zimbabwe, suggested that we head for a concert at the Harbourfront Centre, set on the western shores of Lake Ontario. When he also mentioned that one of the musicians was Thomas Mapfumo, a Zimbabwean now settled in the United States, we were truly excited.

Behind the wheel of our cab was a giant of a man, a Somali, who told us about his passion for soccer and that before he moved to Toronto a few years ago, he was actually an amateur trainer.

He still has fond memories of his war-torn homeland in the Horn of Africa.

Arriving at the Harbourfront Centre, we found Mapfumo, a legend back home, the star attraction of the event. He and his Blacks Unlimited and two other African bands were playing as part of the cultural events of the International AIDS Conference.

First on stage was a quintet of young Africans from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa. Second was a group from West Africa.

But Mapfumo, known for the prominent role his music played in galvanising support for the armed struggle for independence in Zimbabwe in the 1970s, was easily the pick of the crop.

While the crowd was mixed, a significant number were Zimbabweans. And all of them, it appears, were keen to find out if this Mapfumo was the same Mapfumo they knew before he joined the Diaspora.

Mapfumo, whose brand of music is still known as Chimurenga (Shona for”war of liberation”) belted out a number of songs whose themes revolve around the need for peace, love and social order.

But the one that captured the mood of the evening was Mukondombera (Shona for HIV/AIDS) ‘ a gripping song about the dangers of risky sexual behaviour.

For Mapfumo, also known as the Lion of Zimbabwe, is now engaged in another kind of struggle ‘ raising awareness of HIV/AIDS. ‘ Panoscope

August 2006
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