Eyre sets Mapfumo's life in the context of Zimbabwe's history. In the 1970s Mapfumo crystallized a new genre called chimurenga, or "struggle" music. Threatened by Mapfumo's subversive lyrics, the Rhodesian government banned his music and jailed him. Mapfumo's music was important to Zimbabwe achieving independence in 1980. In the 1980s and 1990s his international profile grew along with his opposition to Robert Mugabe's dictatorship. Mugabe had been a hero of the revolution, and Mapfumo's criticism of his regime led authorities and loyalists to turn on the singer with threats and intimidation. Beginning in 2000, Mapfumo, along with key band and family members, left Zimbabwe, and many now reside in Eugene, Oregon.
A labor of love, Lion Songs is the product of a twenty-five year friendship and professional relationship between Eyre and Mapfumo that demonstrates Mapfumo's musical and political importance to his nation, its freedom struggle, and its culture.
Banning Eyre has written about international music, especially African guitar styles, since 1988. He comments and reports on music for National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and contributes regularly to the Boston Phoenix, Guitar Player, Rhythm, Folk Roots, The Beat, CD Now, CMJ, New Music Monthly, and the Music Hound and All Music Guides. He has traveled extensively in Africa and has produced many programs for the public radio series Afropop Worldwide.
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