Mapfumo on the rocks

Global warming is a reality in Gracia, where the guy at Bar Musical Zimbabwe has included a sun setting behind a desert island (I always thought Zimbabwe was land-locked) on his storefront sign. Despite claims to the contrary, Zimbabwean “traditional” music styles are just as un-proto-democratic as is the Ampurdan dance, the sardana. However, like the world (and the odd Dutch windmill this afternoon), they will probably keep on turning. According to Fred Zindi (Roots Rocking in Zimbabwe), Thomas Mapfumo started using mbira styles with guitar bands in 1972 while playing drums with the Hallelujah Chicken-Run Band at Rhodesia’s Mangula copper-silver mine (these were heady times–Mangula won the Rhodesia Cup for the second time in the same year). Here are a couple of MIDI transcriptions:

  1. The intro to Shumba, which appeared on the 1980 album Gwindingwi Rine Shumba.
  2. The two guitars, slowed down, hocketing. (Philip Glass borrowed the idea further west.)
  3. The lead part from the intro to Ndanzwa ngoma kurira, in which two lines are split between the E and the B strings.
  4. A filled out version of Shumba which, looped, will provide a perfect accompaniment as you chant your shopping list. As Paul Berliner quotes in The Soul of Mbira, “mbira music without singing is like grain porridge without vegetables.” And what, dear reader, is grain porridge without vegetables, apart from the first step in becoming a successful distiller?

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