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ZAMBIA and Zimbabwe are like Siamese twins; the two nations share a lot in common.
Their respective cultures, languages and even peoples have common histories.
So, when Zimbabwean music icon Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo flies all the way from his base in the United States to perform in Zambia next month, it will definitely feel like a homecoming for him, just across the border from his homeland.
Mapfumo has been invited to serenade crowds at the Festival Zambia on 2 December in Lusaka. It will be home away from home for the man popularly known as Mukanya, who has lived in the US since the early 2000s in self-imposed exile.
The Mamvemve singer will share the stage with the likes of Matthew Tembo, Bantu Roots and Mumba Yachi from Zambia, Driemo from Malawi and Lindsay Chamangura Ngura, a Zimbabwean.
But the question most people are asking is: Will Mapfumo take this opportunity to visit home after his Zambia gig?
Or perhaps his fans have to cross the border to meet and greet with their favourite artiste.
At the age of 78, and a glittering career spanning nearly five decades, Mukanya, has graced the stage for a lifetime.
And the upcoming Festival Zambia is part of his exit plan from live performances.
The Chimurenga music maestro previously hinted at retiring and relocating back home to Zimbabwe.
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 can remember.
He is famous for his protest music during the height of oppression in white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and then in post-independence Zimbabwe when the black rulers have turned on their own with iron-fisted black-on-black subjugation.
This outspokenness against the regime, particularly of the late president Robert Mugabe, sent Mapfumo into self-exile, as he feared 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 military coup in 2017.
He came back home after Mugabe’s demise, but soon fell foul of the new government of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has shown traits of his mentor Mugabe.
So Mukanya went back to his principled stand, opposing the oppressors, and 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 runs the country.
And he is leading by example, by going into retirement.
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 once said.
Originality is something Mapfumo does not compromise on, simply because this is what made him the megastar he is. Zimbabwe has given the world such music stars as Mapfumo himself, Mtukudzi, the Bundu Boys and the recently departed mbira maestro Stella Chiweshe. The NewsHawks