Banning Eyre, Lion Songs, and Ron Singer, Uhuru Revisited

Like Fela Kuti and Bob Marley, singer, composer and bandleader Thomas Mapfumo and his music came to represent his native country's anti-colonial struggle and cultural identity. Thomas Mapfumo was born in 1945 in what was then the British colony of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The trajectory of his career -- from early performances of American rock and roll tunes to later creating a new genre based on traditional Zimbabwean music, including the sacred mbira, and African and Western pop -- is a metaphor for Zimbabwe's evolution from colony to independent nation. Lion Songs, by Banning Eyre, is an authoritative biography of Mapfumo that narrates the life and career of this creative, complex and iconic figure.

Eyre sets Mapfumo's life in the context of Zimbabwe's history. In the 1970s Mapfumo crystallized a new genre called chimurenga, or "struggle" music. Threatened by Mapfumo's subversive lyrics, the Rhodesian government banned his music and jailed him. Mapfumo's music was important to Zimbabwe achieving independence in 1980. In the 1980s and 1990s his international profile grew along with his opposition to Robert Mugabe's dictatorship. Mugabe had been a hero of the revolution, and Mapfumo's criticism of his regime led authorities and loyalists to turn on the singer with threats and intimidation. Beginning in 2000, Mapfumo, along with key band and family members, left Zimbabwe, and many now reside in Eugene, Oregon.

A labor of love, Lion Songs is the product of a twenty-five year friendship and professional relationship between Eyre and Mapfumo that demonstrates Mapfumo's musical and political importance to his nation, its freedom struggle, and its culture.

Banning Eyre has written about international music, especially African guitar styles, since 1988. He comments and reports on music for National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and contributes regularly to the Boston Phoenix, Guitar Player, Rhythm, Folk Roots, The Beat, CD Now, CMJ, New Music Monthly, and the Music Hound and All Music Guides. He has traveled extensively in Africa and has produced many programs for the public radio series Afropop Worldwide.

"Uhuru!” (“Freedom!”) was the battle cry of Kenya’s Independence movement.  Since Ghana led the way in 1957, most of the fifty-plus nations of Africa have thrown off their colonial oppressors. But since then, new oppressors—dictators and other ineffective, venial leaders—have misruled many of these nations.

Based upon a series of in-depth interviews, Uhuru Revisited describes three of sub-Saharan Africa’s endemic problems: economic inequality, corruption, and an un-free press. The book also celebrates the lives of eighteen heroic activists who have grappled with these problems. Today, democratic revolutions are sweeping the globe. Designed for both scholars and general readers, Uhuru Revisited offers a basis for understanding the broad subject of regime change.

Ron Singer was born in the Bronx, New York in 1941. He is the author of seven previous books, as well as hundreds of poems, stories and articles, many of them about Africa. Singer’s interest in the continent began when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria between 1964 and 1967. After obtaining a Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago in 1976, he taught until 2008. Uhuru Revisited is the product of sojourns in six African countries during 2010 and 2011.

Event date: 
Friday, June 12, 2015 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Porter Square Books
25 White St.
Cambridge, MA 02140
Lion Songs: Thomas Mapfumo and the Music That Made Zimbabwe Cover Image
ISBN: 9780822359081
Availability: Available at Warehouse
Published: Duke University Press - May 22nd, 2015