Thomas Mapfumo's Biography
Thomas Tafirenyika Mapfumo (born July 3, 1945) is a Zimbabwean musician known as "The Lion of Zimbabwe" and "Mukanya" (the praise name of his clan in the Shona language) for his immense popularity and for the political influence he wields through his music, including his sharp criticism of the government of President Robert Mugabe. He both created and made popular Chimurenga musicand his slow-moving style and distinctive voice is instantly recognisable to Zimbabweans.
Mapfumo was imprisoned without charges under the white-dominated regime of Rhodesia. He now lives in exile in the United States, and although he has occasionally returned to Zimbabwe he has not returned since 2005.
He joined his first band, the Zutu Brothers (Encyclopædia Britannica says it was the Cyclones), as a singer at the age of 16. From then he was always in one band or another, sometimes doing odd jobs on the side as well, including chicken farming. Hence the name of his 1972 band, the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band.
He played mostly covers of American rock and soul tunes, such as Otis Redding or Elvis Presley , until he was in the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band. There he introduced the innovation of adapting traditional Shona music to modern rock instrumentation.
He worked with guitarist Joshua Dube (Leopard Man's Africa Music Guide says Jonah Sithole) to transcribe the sounds of the chief instrument of traditional Shona music, the mbira to the electric guitar. He also started singing primarily in the Shona language, rather than in English.