Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited

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The chimurenga music of Zimbabwean singer-composer-bandleader Thomas Mapfumo came to fruition in the 1970s as an integral part of the struggle against minority white rule in what was then Rhodesia. This would seem to make listening to him an apt thing to do if you're interested in being "politically correct." But there are other reasons to open your ears to the curiously intoxicating melancholy of Mapfumo's singing: he draws his syllables out long and low over a stream of lazily skipping melodic triplets that flow forth like the tinkling of a thumb piano. The result is quite impressively hypnotic. This is contemplative, almost introspective music--the sort of thing that makes you close your eyes and ask yourself, "So what exactly am I doing on this green earth anyway?" Though rhythmically rich, it's perhaps too restrained to serve as truly riotous dance-floor fodder--judging from his records, I'd expect Mapfumo to be someone you listen rather than dance to--but I've never heard him in person, so maybe I'd better be careful what I say. Tonight, Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison; 327-1662 or 477-7469.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dirk Vandenberk.

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