By Mirirai Nsingo
HE’s old, they’ve said. Can he last the distance? sceptics have asked. Can he belt them out like in the days of old? critiques have quizzed.
But the Chimurenga music guru, Thomas Mapfumo, who touched down after years in exile on Uhuru day insists he still has it in him to wow music aficionados. He says he has the vigour of an 18-year-old.
Mukanya, as the 72-year-old is affectionately known, challenged sceptics to come to Glamis arena next Saturday and witness a lifetime performance.
Mapfumo touched down at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Wednesday after 14 years of self-imposed exile in United States’ Oregon said he has enough to last him the whole night on stage.
“Zimbabwe can expect a lot of excitement and I still can last the distance like I used to. I can even play the whole night.”
Also known as “Gandanga”, the Chimurenga guru who has a tight itinerary ahead of his homecoming show said he would go to his rural home in Guruve this weekend where a traditional ritual following his arrival is set to be performed.
Mukanya said he has not lost touch with his roots noting that with his uncle’s guidance, sekuru Chiwanza Chikore, he was going to Dzimbabwe (their spiritual realm) to inform the ancestors of his arrival back home.
“He (sekuru Chiwanza) has already sent someone to remind me of the rituals that need to be done in Guruve and I assured him that I will be home tomorrow (yesterday) so that we can do what is supposed to be done,” growled the Lion of Zimbabwe in his epic trademark distinctive bellow of a voice.
“I have been gone for too long and so much has happened during my absence including the death of my mother and my other close relatives. I have not lost touch with my culture and I believe in my ancestors for guidance so yes am going home,” he said.
It seems he stuck to his uncle’s word that Guruve should be his first port of call as soon as he lands in Harare, something his uncle exclusively revealed to Saturday Herald Lifestyle on our trek to the Chimurenga guru’s rural home recently.
“The first thing he should do as soon as he lands is to come so that we can inform our spiritual realm that the boy is back. We will be guided by the spirit for the way forward,” sekuru Chiwanza told Saturday Lifestyle.
Mapfumo urges Zimbabweans not to lose their identity to Westernisation arguing that he believes our cultural way of worshipping was through ancestors hence communicated to God through them.
“I know God is there and I know I can communicate to him through our ancestors. We should not be brainwashed by the Western way of worshiping and lose our identity in the process,” he said.
“Now because of Westernisation we have even lost touch with our cultural medicines which have in turn been processed to make most of the medicines that we now use. Back in the day one could identify that this tree cures such an ailment but now we don’t know all that. We have completely lost our identity and we just don’t know who we are any more.”
“No matter how long I have lived in the States, I have not lost touch, that is why I’m going to Dzimbahwe,” he said.
Going down memory lane, Mukanya reminisced on how they used to perform rituals back in Guruve under the Muhacha tree (mubola plum/hissing tree), which is a tree for supplication known as the domicile of the ancestors or muti wevadzimu – the tree of the ancestors.
The ancestors are believed to reside in the tree which has a religious significance to people who worship Mwari from the days of old!
“It was under that tree where we used to perform all our rituals, we would spend the night there as we talked to Mwari through the ancestors,” he reminisced.
Mukanya has also extended an olive branch to his cousin, Noah Makore, who stands accused of plundering his herd of cattle noting that it was all in the past.
“He is my brother, I cannot change that although he has his own issues. I’m going to see him when I go home because I’m told he just lost his wife to cervical cancer. We are family and I cannot change that.”
Opening up on life in exile, Mukanya said it was never easy and one has to work hard to survive saying he was happy to be home at last.
“I really do not know how to say this but all is not rosy in a foreign land. One has to work extra hard to survive.”
“I have missed Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe, my relatives too and my fans.”
“I’m glad to be home finally and I have no hard feelings whatsoever for those who drove me into exile. I love every one and my heart is full of love.”
Also known as the Lion of Zimbabwe, Mukanya said Africa can only prosper if it is united noting that the West had divided the continent for its selfish gains.
“The West have divided Africa for their own gains and I believe Africa should have no borders. It is through these borders that they have successfully divided the continent.”
“It is because of the West that Africa is struggling. The white men does not want to see a black succeeding hence he has thrived on dividing the continent.
“If united, Africa can prosper again and realise its full potential. Africa is the richest continent in the whole world, the white man thrives on dividing Africa,” argued Mukanya.
He called upon Zimbabweans to unite, rebuild the country again, and revive the economy and infrastructure development.
Mukanya who is also set to share the stage with his childhood friend, superstar Oliver Mtukudzi, said he was excited to be with his friend again adding that the death of Hugh Masekela had robbed him of a friend and a brother.
“Tuku is just as close to me as I was to the late Hugh Masekela. It feels so exciting to be sharing the stage with Oliver. He has been my friend since we have been boys and we talk about a lot of stuff.”
“I’m pleased to be sharing the stage with Oliver, he has been a friend through all these years and we talk about music, family and life so this (sharing stage) means a lot. I have a lot of good friends in the region and Mzwake Mbuli is one of those friends that I have kept in touch with over the years,” he added.
The Chimurenga godfather who has lost count of the number of albums he has done said he is working on a new album although he was not certain if he was going to sample some of the songs from the offering.
“I have totally lost count of the number of albums that I have done but we are currently working on something new which we are set to release as soon as we go back to America,” he revealed.
“Music keeps changing and we have been playing ana ‘Chamunorwa’ but we have got something new, we have been creating music while in the States and right now we are in the studio as we are preparing something new.
“I don’t know if I’m going to sample the new songs at this show because we are still working on it. But as soon as we go back, we will make sure that you get it first.”
He also shares the stage with Winky D, Sulu Chimbetu, Andy Muridzo and Gary Tight whom he has encouraged to tell the Zimbabwean story through music.
“These youngsters are following in our footsteps and my advice is that they should stick to the Zimbabwean cultural music and continue to put the country on the map by telling the Zimbabwean story.
“This is our motherland so we should show the world who we are through music.”
Commenting on Zimdancehall music, he believes if they want to blend cultures through music, they should do it the right way and make it international than limit themselves to Zimbabwe.
“I have no issues with the upcoming artistes but I urge them to do it right. I know some youngsters get so excited when they listen to music like hip-hop; my son Tapfumaneyi, when he gets into his car, is busy playing ‘boom, boom’ but then it should mean something and communicate through music.
“If that’s what they want to do, then it should be the right way. Jamaicans have done it and gone international so the musicians in Zimbabwe should fuse their songs in a marketable manner,” he said adding that he had just won the first Global Music award as he continues to put Zimbabwe on the map through music.
Celebrated for his culturally rich and hard-hitting lyrics, Mukanya last performed in Zimbabwe 14 years ago and has since described his homecoming gig as a dream come true.
The show comes courtesy of Entertainment republic, who have weathered a storm of challenges from their foes and local adversaries to ensure that the lion in Mukanya roars on Zimbabwean soil once again.
“It was hard work, energy and tireless dedication that bought us thus far and we certainly are proud of our achievements and that our enemies have failed to foil this epic show,” said ER boss Tendai Johannes.