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Wednesday 26 April 2023

Unlimited Tom

Older readers may remember that period in the mid to late 1980s when Zimbabwean music seemed to be everywhere (if you define everywhere as meaning John Peel and Andy Kershaw's radio shows) - the likes of the Bhundu Boys, the Four Brothers and the creators of Chimurenga music, Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited.

Many of them have sadly fallen by the wayside since then, but Thomas Mapfumo is still going strong. He went into exile in the US in 2000 after getting on the wrong side of that nice Mr Mugabe, only going back to Zimbabwe to play some shows in 2018 after Mugabe had lost power.

Mr Mapfumo has continued to perform regularly over the last 20 years. He has also released the occasional record including in 2011 when his album "Exile" came out on the Sheer Sound label in South Africa (I don't know whether it was ever available elsewhere). I picked up a copy while I was in Cape Town earlier in the year. Very good it is too.

"Vagere Kunaka" - Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited

"Mwana Wemurombo" - Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited

And now, more Mr Mapfumo and two other unlimited things.


  1. I am old enough to remember that period and the three great acts you refer to. Terrific stuff.

  2. I saw a Thomas Mapfumo concert in a small venue ca. 1994. My abiding memory was of how he seemed to fill the entire stage, not just his physical presence but he somehow conveyed a huge charismatic presence.

    1. You lucky devil. I've never had the pleasure of seeing him live. I saw the Bhundu Boys at some point in the late 1980s. Other than that my only live encounter with a Zimbabwean musician was the night me and my pals had a drinking session in Shoreditch with Zeke Manyika.

    2. He was an awesome sight, and I think the emphasis owed to the band coming on first and playing a lengthy introduction, heightening expectations, and Mapfumo coming on with arms spread out.

    3. Having said that, he's probably only 1m 50 tall, and 60kg (or about the same weight as Parsley the goat)

    4. Does Parsley have the same stage presence? Must be difficult for him to walk on with his arms spread out.