Chimurenga music maestro Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo will be retiring from music soon to take a deserved rest and devote his time to impartation of musical knowledge to up-and-coming musicians, particularly the young.
By Gilbert Munetsi
He made the revelation in a wide-ranging and exclusive interview with Standard Style on Thursday, the day he celebrated his 75th birthday.
The US-based Mapfumo also spoke about a biography project which he said is on the cards and will detail his life and works from a more personal perspective.
“I have kept it a secret. However, due to the importance of this day in my life, perhaps it is time for my fellow country-folk to know that Mukanya will not be appearing on stage ever. I need to rest and pass on the baton to others and this is going to happen in the very near future,” Mukanya said.
“But I will be there in the background dishing out musical knowledge to those that seek it, especially the young men and women who have the passion to uphold our Zimbabwean culture through the art of music.
“Already, I am working with and moulding my son, Kurai Makore [that’s my other surname by the way], so that he, too, will carry the family torch. Also recently I had a joint gig with a very talented young lady by the name of Rati Dangarembwa. Mono Mukundu has also given me works by his son who I believe has a very bright future and is a guitar player par excellence.
“This is what I have decided to devote my time doing during the course of my retirement, being advisor and mentor to the young ones.
“However, the bias of my education to the up-and-coming artistes will be centred on our music, traditional music. There is no point in our youths attempting to compete with Charlie Black, Vybz Kartel or Beenie Man because they will never win Jamaicans’ hearts. Like Salif Keita who promotes Malian music and Fela Kuti doing the same for Nigeria, I will focus on the music of my motherland.
“So, yes, I have plans to come home for retirement. Kuno kwatiri unoti kukuda here iwe? Aiwa, tiri musango, mumarimuka saka kana muvhimi achinge apedza basa, adzimba, anodzokera kumusha. Home is where the heart and soul are and I aspire to ultimately settle where my umbilical cord is.”
Mapfumo, who has been based in Oregon since his self-imposed exile more than two decades ago (returning home just twice for some shows), on Thursday turned 75, a feat he said can only be achieved when one has the protection of both the deity and the ancestoral spirits.
“I thank God and midzimu yangu [my ancestoral spirits] for having taken me this far, it’s not of my own making,” he said.
“All humankind acknowledges the hand of God, it’s only that we have different ways of worship, but the destination of prayers is the same.
“As a Zimbabwean, however, I also have my medium spirits that give me protection. Prophets like Chaminuka [just like those you read about in the Bible] were sent to us so that they could guide us. I am not ashamed to be associated with those of the same skin colour with me.
“If you go to India, they will tell you they worship Buddha, and some time back when I visited Hawaii, they told me they communicate with a god they call Kameyameya. The Red Indians here in America believe in a deity they call Wakatanga. So who is our guiding spirit as Africans and as Zimbabweans?
“My main worry is that when the colonisers came hand-clutching the Bible, they also wielded the gun, stole our God and sold us a God they wanted us to believe in. They told us that our way of worship was demonic, but no, that is not true. That is the very reason why it has proved difficult to unite the people because ancestoral spirits are angry.”
On whether they had been any planned activities around celebrating his birthday, the Lion of Zimbabwe said there were offers from as far afield as the United Kingdom for celebrations, and he had given the green light to the organisers to go ahead.
He said a full ensemble was likely, with mbira, guitars and brass making up the musical show which they plan to have streamed online.
Previously, an album, Live at El Rey, was recorded as a birthday project when he turned 50 years.
Mapfumo is a passionate football follower who once had his own team Sporting Lions playing in the local Premier Soccer League. But he spoke about his love for Dynamos back at home. He also is on cloud nine following the lifting of the English Premier League championship by Liverpool, his favourite there.
The lack of professionalism in the domestic game has not escaped his scrutiny though.
“I have always supported Dynamos since my youthful years, but it is the lack of a professional approach that worries me much. For such a big club as Dynamos, we should be talking about a club house as well as their own stadium, but as it stands, we don’t appear anywhere near achieving that,” he said with pessimism.
Mapfumo went to school with Dynamos legend George Shaya and one of his first guitarists was Bernard Mariot, one of the pioneering Dynamos players.