This is a staggering record – relentless cyclical guitar and bass, beautiful intertwining melodies and Mapfumo on top form with his socially conscious lyrics.
Thomas Mapfumo is widely regarded as Zimbabwe’s greatest and best known artist. He invented and popularized Chimurenga music – literally “struggle” in Shona – which was often overtly political. In addition to his modern incarnation of traditional music, his lyrics were sung in Shona. In the late 1970s singing in Shona instead of English was a political statement in and of itself. In Mapfumo’s case, it was specifically critical of the white ruling class of Rhodesia. The government, underestimating his popularity, eventually banned his records and imprisoned Mapfumo without charges in 1979. After a series of large protests demanding his release, he was set free three months later.
Though he initially celebrated the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, he became increasingly disillusioned with the regime of Robert Mugabe.
Shumba (or Lion) was a particularly popular song during the fight for liberation and is a cautionary tale warning of spies in the midst …
Do not talk of secret issues or give information in public
Informers are everywhere.
A perfect record
A wonderfully relentless guitar underpins this classic single from Zimbabwe’s finest.
The Four Brothers formed originally in the Rhodesian days of 1977 and were long championed by the late, great, John Peel for whom they recorded four radio sessions for his show between 1988 and 2000 (details here). The band played at Peel’s surprise 50th birthday party at his home and he selected ‘Pasi Pano Pane Zviedzo’ as one of his favourite records of all time on the radio show Desert Island Discs in 1990 (recording of the programme available here). Peel is often quoted as describing the Four Brothers as “..the best live band in the world”.
Wikipedia notes that, in 1997, founder member Marshall Munhumumwe suffered a stroke, following a car crash. He was unable to continue to perform with the band and was replaced by Albert Ruwizhi. Munhumumwe died in 2001 at the age of 49 and the following year bass guitarist Never Mutare died. Finally, the last surviving member, Frank Sibanda died peacefully in December 2010.
Rather like The Ramones, The Four Brothers were not actually brothers.