By Godwin Muzari
Legendary chimurenga musician Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo was all smiles when he landed at the Robert Mugabe International Airport on Wednesday night.
For more than one hour, people had waited for their legend who landed in Harare around 10pm after 14 years of absence from his motherland.
Anticipations were high and Mukanya’s music played in most cars as people arrived at the airport to welcome their hero. It was indeed a grand homecoming.
By 9pm the arrivals section of the airport had started filling with fans that shared various memories about their previous experiences at Mukanya’s shows. Some had last seen him in South Africa in 2014 while others last saw him on stage in 2004 when he last performed in the country. Others have never seen him on stage.
The accounts of 14 and four years ago seemed to dovetail. It was as if they had seen their icon on stage recently. They laughed together, hummed his hits, exchanged his songs via mobile phones and gave their predictions about the upcoming show.
Some said the Glamis Arena where the musician will be performing next Saturday is small for the event. Others said they will be at the venue many hours before the show to ensure that they get parking space and take strategic positions in the arena.
They all agreed on one note: it will be a memorable event. And with Oliver Mtukudzi, Winky D, Andy Muridzo Suluman Chimbetu and Gary Tight’s also on the line-up, the show indeed has ingredients of a memorable affair.
So, as people continued to come to the airport exciting stories about Mukanya, the show and Zimbabwean music in general became topics of the night. Then word that Mukanya had landed reached the anticipating fans and there was movement as people pressed towards the exit of the arrivals section. There was commotion. They started singing ‘Mukanya woye, Mukanya woye’ pressing towards the glass doors.
Security details had a tough time to restrain the jubilant fans from entering the restricted area. Even other passengers that had come on the same flight as Mukanya had to push their way out.
Everytime someone was mistaken for Mukanya came out, there would be increased commotion. The commotion went on for about 30 minutes. Still, Mukanya did not come out. But people stretched their patients and continued singing, shouting and hoping. Security details sensed that the situation would get worse if they allowed the musician out into the jovial crowd.
They had to make a plan for him to sneak out. They directed him to get out through the departures area. But many fans noticed it and by the time he came out, many were already at the door.
He came out with a Zimbabwean flag draped around his shoulders. He looked elated and seemed ready to shout ‘I am back’. And they pressed towards him. Some wanted to embrace him. Others wanted to have pictures taken with him. As the noise shifted to the departures area, so did the wave of the crowd. People literally ran to the other side of the airport.
The security details could not avoid it. Mukanya was mobbed. He was in a sea of his fans. His way to the waiting car was blocked. Journalists fought with bouncers to have interviews with the musician. In all this madness, all Mukanya could do was to wave and smile as he struggled in ensuing pressure. He only managed to answer a few questions from journalists before the sea around him got bigger and more powerful.
His handlers had to pull him out of the melee to the car. People pressed towards the car and some even ran after it as it drove away. They continued to sing: “Mukanya woye, Mukanya woye”. And next Saturday a bigger crowd will obviously be belting out the same chorus because many music fans have been awaiting his return. After many futile promises, the Lion of Zimbabwe if finally home, ending years of speculation.