In Harare, Zimbabwe (or what at the time was known as Salisbury, Zimbabwe Rhodesia) — sometime in the middle of the 1970s, Thomas Mapfumo stopped playing covers of American rock and soul (music by Elvis Presley, Bobby Darrin, Mick Jagger, etc.) He began singing in shona, and transcribing the sounds of the mbira (chief instrument for traditional Shona music) to the electric guitar. His lyrics became overtly political, in support of the revolutionary movement in the rural parts of the country. The white minority Rhodesians/ruling population, which was brutally suppressing voices of dissent, didn’t catch on due to their lack of understanding of the native language/culture until 1978 when Thomas Mapfumo released the song “Hokoyo,” which means “Watch Out!” in Shona, and Mapfumo was eventually arrested and jailed. “Hokoyo” became a regional hit in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The song “Hwa-Hwa” is from Thomas Mapfumo’s first full-length, also titled Hokoyo! –first time available in the US thanks to Water.
A few years back, Rupture wrote about and posted some Mapfumo tracks, especially digging his 1980s catalog. Thomas Mapfumo made most of his albums in the 1980s and ’90s, releasing politically charged music, criticizing Robert Mugabe’s government for its gross human rights abuse and torture/beating and killing of opposition party candidates and supporters. Mapfumo was exiled from Zimbabwe in the 1990s. He now lives in Oregon, still making music and touring internationally.