Arts & Lifestyle
It’s been a long journey’: Music icon Mukanya hints at retirement
A GOOD actor knows when to leave the stage.
At the age of 78, and a glittering career spanning nearly five decades, Thomas Mapfumo, the Zimbabwean music icon, has graced the stage for a lifespan.
And he is now exiting.
The Chimurenga music maestro has hinted on retiring. He plans to relocate back home from the United States, where he has lived since 2003.
The man who goes by quite a few monikers — Mukanya, Hurricane Hugo, Gandanga – belongs to a special class of Zimbabwean singers who have dominated the music scene in this country for many decades.
Mapfumo is a contemporary of no less an icon than the late Oliver Mtukudzi, and together they were the two biggest stars in the country for as long as many remember.
He is famous for his protest music. He stood with the masses when black people were oppressed in white-ruled Rhodesia, and then in post-Independent Zimbabwe when the black rulers turned on their own with iron-first governance.
This outspokenness against the regime, particularly of the late President Robert Mugabe, sent Mapfumo into self-exile, fearing for his security under the authoritarian government known for its intolerance towards prominent critics.
So, the legendary Mapfumo settled in Oregon, United States, and never set foot in his homeland until Mugabe was removed from power in a coup in 2017.
He came back home after Mugabe’s demise, but soon fell out with the new government of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has shown traits of his mentor Mugabe.
So Mukanya went back to his principled stance – opposing oppressive rulers. He has challenged Mnangagwa to step down and hand over power to younger and more vibrant leaders.
People like him and Mnangagwa, Mapfumo said, should be resting at home whilst the younger and energetic generation run the country.
And he is leading by example, going into retirement.
“Yes, it is true I am looking at retiring soon after my world tour which is scheduled to start on 24 June 2023,” Mapfumo said.
“It has been a long journey but Zimbabwe is our home, this is where family graves are and I am hoping to come.”
Pressed to comment further on his return home, Mapfumo said:
“I have plenty of music, some of it unrecorded, which I want to share with young musicians. I have songs that best suits female artists and this is what I will be doing when I come home.”
Like Mtukudzi, Mapfumo has, spent his entire life aspiring, and achieving, to put Zimbabwean music on the world map.
“I changed how Zimbabwean music was viewed worldwide and for that I was invited to perform at international stages because my sound was uniquely Zimbabwean,” he said.
Originality is something Mapfumo doesn’t compomise on, simply because this is what made him the megastar he is.
“The music has Zimbabwean identity and mbira is not just an instrument but a traditional music instrument that identifies with our roots and culture, ” he said.
” I’d like to encourage the young musicians to take pride in Zimbabwean music if they want to make it. There are people here especially in United States who know music and they are able to tell whether the sound is original or not.”
Zimbabwe has given the world such music stars as Mapfumo himself, Mtukudzi, the Bundu Boys and the recently departed mbira maestro Stella Chiweshe.
“Of course, when I started out I used to do Rock n Roll which was popularised by the likes of Elvis Presley but I realised that I wasn’t going to breakthrough with foreign sound,” Mapfumo said.
“Now that all these group are no more, I am the only one now representing Zimbabwean sound on international stage.”
Turning to Ambuya Stella Chiweshe’s death on 20 January 2023, Mapfumo said the Mbira queen was an epitome of Zimbabwean traditional music.
“In fact, I was friends with her husband Peter (Reich). They came to my house when I used to stay in the Avenues (in Harare). And my first tour of Germany I performed together with Stella Chiweshe. Her death was really a sad loss to the nation,” he said.
“I encourage fans to look forward to upcoming podcast which will be done by my son Tapfumaneyi on Ambuya Chiweshe. She was a big name even here including Mbuya Dyoko who also played mbira. So, it is a big story coming which I will be talking about her music and my personal experience with her. “
His local manager Sam Mataure told The NewsHawks that Mukanya was upbeat about his retirement.
“It is rare for an artist to retire from stage and leave in style as what Mukanya wants to do,” Mataure said.
“He will use the tour to say thank you to promoters, artists, managers, band members both living and late as well as fans.”
Mataure, who is recovering well from a mild stroke said: “Basically, the tour will take him across the world and it ends in Zimbabwe where he is going to settle.”
The world tour starts in June with a memorial gig in the United Kingdom where Mukanya will be honouring his longtime promoter, Linus William Kadzere.
On his 40th birthday Kadzere’s wife — Priscilla flew Mukanya from the US to perform for his friends and family for six hours.
As Kadzere was a genius businessman, he saw an opportunity whilst Mukanya was in the UK having gone for three years without staging a concert.
Kadzere then decided to promote Mukanya in London, Leicester and Bradford and this was the discovery of the then desolate Athena venue which is now home to many Zimbabwean promoters as well as friendship forward between Kadzere and Mukanya.
Mataure said there is also going to be a tribute football match in the UK.
“Mukanya is a football fanatic and remember he used to own Sporting Lions in Zimbabwe,” he said.
“He also had football friends, the likes of David Mandigora and George Shaya. So, he would want to pay tribute to some of these football legends,” he said.
The tour begins on 24 June 2023 in the UK dubbed Greatest Hits where fans pick songs they want on the playlist.
Then on 6 August 2023 still in the UK, Mukanya will perform at a memorial concert for one of his longest serving promoters Linus Willlam Kadzere who died on 6 August 2021.
On 26 August 2023 there is going to be Legends gig where Mukanya tributes band members both late and living, as well as football legends while in the UK.
The final lap of the tour is scheduled for Zimbabwe at a date to be announced.
Mataure said it was important for fans to celebrate Mukanya whilst he was still alive.