ESSENTIAL Tracks in the Making of Zimbabwe is superb anthology that follows the life and musical path of celebrated singer-songwriter and Thomas Mapfumo.
It’s also the companion CD to the book‘Thomas Mapfumo and the Music That Made Zimbabwe’ (Duke University Press) by Banning Eyre.
Thomas Mapfumo is an essential figure in Zimbabwean music. His politically-committed lyrics (even though he also writes songs about soccer and other passions) got him in trouble numerous times and he went into exile in 2004.
Musically, his various bands have been a school for numerous musicians as Mapfumo mixed traditional Zimbabwean music with rock, reggae and other styles.
American freelance writer, guitarist and radio commentator Banning Eyre has specialized in African music for many years.
He’s worked as a producer for the syndicated radio show Afropop Worldwide and is a contributor to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered (although it seems like NPR has reduced its musical diversity lately).
Eyre first met Mapfumo in 1988. Since then, he has developed a 27-year friendship with Mapfumo, his family and musicians.
Lion Songs: Essential Tracks in the Making of Zimbabwe gives you a detailed overview of Thomas Mapfumo’s entire career featuring recordings made between 1973 and 2010.
As for highlights, I’m more interested in the latter part of his career, where he added an irresistible dance groove based on the hypnotic sound of two mbiras. You’ll find several great examples of this sound on the album.
Lion Songs also includes excerpts of interviews with Mapfumo describing key moments of his music.
The album is the only Thomas Mapfumo compilation that spans his entire musical career. It’s essential music made by one of the greatest musicians to have come out of southern Africa.