Thomas Mapfumo (born 1945 in Marondera, Zimbabwe) is a Zimbabwean musician known as “The Lion of Zimbabwe” for his immense popularity and for the political influence he wields through his music.

Pre-Independence, his songs openly called for the violent overthrow of the government, with lyrics like “Mothers, send your sons to war.” Since the white government didn’t understand Shona, however, at first they didn’t realize how radical the songs were.

Eventually they caught on, though. The climax came with a song called “Hokoyo!”, which means “Watch out!” The government banned the record from the state-controlled radio and threw him into a prison camp without charges in 1979. Despite this, they couldn’t stop his records from being played in discos or on radio stations they didn’t control, like the Voice of Mozambique. Large demonstrations in protest of his arrest and an inability to trump up charges against him forced the government to release him after three months.

After Independence, in 1980, Mapfumo’s popularity continued to grow. The hero kept on singing about the injustices of Mugabe’s government and, history repeating itself, his music was banned from state radio in the early years of the 2000s. Mapfumo, who received the honors of a doctorate for his contribution to Zimbabwean music, now became a nuisance to Mugabe’s government.

As circumstances do not permit him to continue the life of a free musician in Zimbabwe, Thomas Mapfumo left Zimbabwe and is now living in the USA.

Edited by Dawson41 on 17 Aug 2008, 07:22

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Formed in
  • 1945
Founded in
  • Marondera, Zimbabwe

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