Gig Alert: Thomas Mapfumo

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Thomas Mapfumo
Playing Wednesday at Southpaw
(125 5th Ave., Park Slope)
Get: Tickets ($16) | Directions

Thomas Mapfumo is hands down the most important voice in Zimbabwe's popular music history.

Amidst the upheavals of the 1970s that led to the end of white-minority rule and Zimbabwean independence, Mapfumo pioneered a new style of music called chimurenga, a word that means “revolutionary struggle” in the Shona language. In a low, growling voice, Mapfumo sang politically-charged lyrics over interlocking layers of guitars that imitate the muted, plucky tone of the mbira — the traditional Shona thumb piano. Mapfumo served jail time for spreading his political messages and has subsequently gained international renown as a freedom fighter.

Now, even though Mapfumo is well into his sixties, he's continuing to perform and release music like this feel-good track “Ndangariro.” On Wednesday, Mapfumo brings his skilled band to Southpaw for a night of top-notch Afro-pop.