Not one minute into this concert, I was crying from the beauty. Something about the sorrow-and-joy sound of the music caught me right in the middle of vulnerability, and it took me three songs to come round and experience the concert from other perspectives than the weepy one.
Thomas Mapfumo started making music when Zimbabwe was Rhodesia, a former British colony struggling for independence. He's credited with blending traditional Shona songs and instruments with contemporary electric rock music, and is recognized as a cultural leader in the revolution. He's now stridently anti-Mugabe, living in exile in Oregon and making music with his band, Blacks Unlimited.
As for this music, simple and complex beats are layered to produce a thick foundation of rhythm, on top of which melodic cycles and riffs flow in and out. Mapfumo's voice isn't strong, but intense and perfectly balanced with the instruments: drums, percussion, bass, tenor and alto sax, mbira and guitar. It's music to sit and soak up or to dance to, and a little bit of the latter did, in fact, occur in the sedately carpeted aisles of Camp Concert Hall.
If you're not familiar with Zimbabwean music in particular, or African music at all, this is an excellent show to start with. Good thing they're playing again, Saturday night... get a ticket now!: Thomas Mapfumo and Blacks Unlimited