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HARARE – Chimurenga music legend Thomas Mapfumo (71) was born Michael Munhumumwe and only started using his current name at the age of nine, a just-released biography of the iconic artiste written by Banning Eyre claims.
The chimurenga music legend was born to Janet Chinhamo and Tapfumaneyi Mupariwa on July 2 1945 but was raised by his maternal grandparents Hamundidi and Kufera Munhumumwe who lived on a white man’s farm in Marondera after Mupariwa failed to pay lobola.
“…Tapfumaneyi was a Korekore Shona man from Guruve in the remote rugged valleys of Dande. An itinerant musician and “one-man band,” Tapfumaneyi made a scant living driving tractors at farms in Mashonaland.
He was too poor to pay Janet’s lobola so no marriage could occur,” claims the biography that has just been published by Duke University Press.
Mapfumo’s late mother, who is quoted in the 362-page biography, claims that Mupariwa suddenly disappeared from the scene after failing to fulfil the lobola requirements.
“When I was pregnant Thomas’ father paid a little lobola but not enough. And then he went for good,” said Mapfumo’s mother.
Mapfumo only managed to see his father for the first time when he was 17 years old.
According to the biography, the chimurenga music star’s mother was the eldest of Hamundidi and Kufera Munhumumwe’s 11 children who included the late ex-Four Brothers lead vocalist and drummer Marshall Munhumumwe who was the youngest.
In the 1950s Mapfumo’s mother married a car mechanic called John Kashesha Mapfumo who was based in the suburb of Mabvuku in Harare, then called Salisbury.
In 1955 Janet and her new Kashesha Mapfumo invited Thomas (then known as Michael Munhumumwe) to be part of their strict and churchgoing family in Mabvuku .
The future music star came to the city using the identification papers of Janet’s young brothers.
“The name on those papers was Thomas, and this how Michael Munhumumwe became Thomas Mapfumo,” adds the voluminous biography.
Due to the kindness of his stepfather, who was a son of a Shona mother and European father, Thomas came to think of him “as my true father, the man who looked after me, sent me to school and taught me good manners, to work hard and live well with other kids.”
In his new family, Thomas lived with his four half siblings who were Tabeth, Edith, William and Lancelot. The last two eventually became members of the chimurenga music star’s backing group-The Blacks Unlimited.
Mapfumo went on to become one of Zimbabwe’s most prominent entertainers due to his mbira-derived rhythms.
The chimurenga music legend, whose music has regularly rubbed the government the wrong way and who has been in the music business for over 40 years, has been based in Oregon in the United States of America for over a decade.