New York (New
York), USA – Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited return to New York City
for a concert at SOBs. The concert will be held Wednesday, April 18 at 9pm and 11:30pm. Tickets
are $20/$22. SOBs is located at
204 Varick Street
(at West Houston),
New York, NY 10014. Phone: +1 (212) 243-4940.
Legendary musician Thomas Mapfumo’s new album
Rise Up (Real World Records), to
be released in June 2006 in North America, is guaranteed to be banned from Zimbabwean state radio
the moment it airs in Harare’s record bars and flea markets. Having music banned
is an experience Mapfumo associates with the late 1970s, the twilight years of
the Ian Smith regime – now his people are suffering a new strain of tyranny
under Robert Mugabe.
Mapfumo draws on such a broad array of genres—Shona spirit music, African jazz,
classic R&B, rock, reggae, and a variety of local Zimbabwean genres—that he
sometimes settles on peculiar hybrids.
Although The Blacks Unlimited has changed
steadily over the years—no fewer than ten key members have died, many from AIDS,
since 1990—there is a striking consistency to the sound. Mapfumo recorded Rise
Up using a mostly stripped-down line-up of fourteen musicians that included a
white, non-Zimbabwean brass section, and a few veteran collaborators. After
meticulous rehearsing, he is notoriously brisk in the studio, recording most
songs in one take, and allowing minimal overdubbing or fixing. The end result is
at times flawed, but always vigorously free of the stale gloss of fussy
Since his first single in 1974, Mapfumo has shown an unfailing ear for a hook,
for reaching his people. Returning to New York from his sold out show at Satalla
this past fall, Mapfumo, in virtual exile from his homeland, endures. His voice, once
described as a ‘bass whisper’ with its defiant moral authority, has transferred
gracefully now from a brash youthfulness to the intonations of a serene elder.
In the summer of 2005, Mapfumo opened the Live 8 concert in Cornwall, England.
His performance was captured on the new DVD
Live 8 at Eden – Africa Calling.