362pp., illus., hardback, d.w., Durham, 2015
A biography of Zimbabwean singer, composer and bandleader Thomas Mapfumo. Born in 1945 in what was then the British colony of Rhodesia, Mapfumo created a new genre of music called 'chimurenga' (struggle music), based on traditional Zimbabwean music, including the sacred 'mbira', and African and Western pop music. The Rhodesian government banned his music and jailed him. In the 1980s and 1990s he grew increasingly critical of Robert Mugabe's dictatorship and in 2000 he left Zimbabwe and now lives in exile in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
"In 'Lion Songs' the reader follows Thomas Mapfumo's career as a singer/songwriter and uncompromising social critic through the last gasp of colonialism in Rhodesia, the liberation struggle, and the aftermath of independence. A skilled storyteller, Banning Eyre integrates his perspective on these events with his experiences performing as a guitarist in Mapfumo's bands, deftly interweaving his accounts with the perspectives of Zimbabwean, European, and North American observers and interlocutors. Against the backdrop of Zimbabwe's political history and the global flows of the popular music market, Eyre provides an intimate view of the bands' touring musicians and dancers. He explores their artistic practices, their interpersonal relationships, and the relentless challenges they face in Zimbabwe, in Europe, and in America, where Mapfumo currently lives in political exile. 'Lion Songs' is also the history of the creative genius of Mapfumo himself, and the moral complexities that surround his life." Paul Berliner, author of "The Soul of Mbira: music and traditions of the Shona people of Zimbabwe
Writer and guitarist Banning Eyre is senior editor and producer of the public radio programme Afropop Worldwide. He is also the author of "In Griot Time: an American guitarist in Mali" and "Playing with Fire: fear and self-censorship in Zimbabwean music".