Mapfumo, Tuku to Light Up Harare With Top Gig

After almost two decades of absence from the local music scene, Thomas Mukanya Mapfumo returns to Zimbabwe in style, writes Allnet Africa's senior arts editor Joseph Maramba.

Thomas Mapfumo has confirmed his return to Zimbabwe (Photo: Bend Bulletin).

There is a Bira brewing in the old city of Harare. One that will remind us of days gone by when the sound of mbira and hosho would fill the fire-lit nights accompanied with sharp clapping to the beating of the drum and cheerful feminine ululation until the break of dawn.

With no doubt, this is the greatest meet between Zimbabwe’s two greatest musicians both with a great record in musical performance, deliverance and boasting over 80 albums between them.

This Bira ignites a certain nostalgia of a country we once had, were music played a big part in it and with it can help shape the future of a seemingly new Zimbabwe.

Thomas Mapfumo (73) and Oliver Mtukudzi (66) will square off at a heavily anticipated show at Glamis Arena in Harare, almost twenty years since the Chimurenga maestro left the country to the USA in a self-imposed exile following threats from a ruthless Robert Mugabe regime in which his music was heavily criticized and censored.

Mapfumo’s music caught the attention of the Zimbabwean government with his song “Mamvemve!”, meaning “Rags” – referring to how the country had been run down by Mugabe’s government. Mukanya was threatened with arrest leading to his escape to the U.S.

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Mukanya and Tuku’s music still preach on the goodness of the heart while advocating for nothing more than the uplifting of the masses in the country who have suffered under the yoke of poor governance. They have remained relevant in a fluid environment where many artists have veered off course and have failed to keep their audiences affixed.

Set to be the biggest show of the decade and the biggest ever since Bob Marley graced the country at an independence celebration at Rufaro stadium in which Mapfumo performed alongside, the show already has tongues wagging and the rest of the country looking forward to it after Mukanya announced it on his facebook page.

The venue itself speaks a lot about the magnitude expected for the show and the price (U.S $10) speaks volumes of the crowd expected to grace the event.

Mukanya and Tuku’s music has always been viewed as music for the masses and any smaller venue would have been catastrophic.

Dubbed the ‘Welcome back Bira’ to celebrate Thomas Mapfumo’s return to a new country with a new president, fans will be eager to see if Mukanya, as he is affectionately known, can still roar like a lion with his hoarse voice and enter into a trance on stage as he would before his departure for the USA.

Of late, some have described the Chimurenga king’s music as having gone soft and too English because of his fusion with proper music arrangements but that has deterred very little of his many fans who have been happy to hear him sing despite leaving the country.

Oliver Mtukudzi, riding on the high tide of his brand-new album titled Hany’nga, will be eager to promote and showcase his well-aged mastery and share the stage with a long-time friend and music companion/teacher in what could be the greatest ever pairing of Zimbabwean artistry in the decade.

The show will most probably take those attending a chance to re-live the couple’s old hit with the new. An almost impossible task if you think of the number of hits these two have up their sleeves. I am almost sure there will be many favorites that will be left out of this line-up but not to worry, this could be the start of many other shows from Mapfumo or even a tour of the country just as he would do back in the day if he is to give yearning fans a really good treat in the year.

Joseph Maramba is an experienced Journalist with vast experience in both radio and print journalism.