sexta-feira, 19 de julho de 2013

Thomas Mapfumo: The stories behind Peter Gabriel's Real World Records Nº 5

In 1989, Peter Gabriel used his big Genesis bucks to fund Real World Records. The label that, arguably, gave rise to the popularity of world music is celebrating its stellar history with a series of reissues called Real World Gold. CBC Music seized the opportunity to interview some of the label’s biggest names. There have been some surprises along the way, which sparked this six-part series. Part one featured Sheila Chandra, followed by Joseph ArthurBlind Boys of Alabama and Simon Emmerson. Now to part five with Thomas Mapfumo, the self-exiled Lion of Zimbabwe.

Depending on the source, Thomas Mapfumo is either a folk hero making music for the people of his beloved Zimbabwe or a coward who criticizes from afar. However, there’s no disputing the power of his Chimurenga music. It’s a phrase Mapfumo coined from the Shona word “struggle,” and speaks to the challenges of the poorest Zimbabweans under the repressive brutality of their president, Robert Mugabe, in power since 1987.
Mapfumo's 1989 album, Corruption, was enough to make him a target of the government, so in 1990 he moved to Oregon and kept making his politically charged music asThomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited. In 2006, the band released its Real World Records hit, "Rise Up," which has now been reissued through Real World Gold. Mapfumo spoke from his home about how he plans to use his music to keep up the fight for Zimbabwe, or die trying.

You got involved with Real World through the WOMAD festivals. Were you surprised to see how much interest there was?
There was a lot of keen interest, especially music coming from Africa. And we still have a lot of people all over the world who appreciate our music and love our music. Most of the people seem to like it.

Were you still in Zimbabwe at the time, or were you in the United States?
I was still in Zimbabwe and then when I came to the States I only played one WOMAD festival and we missed the other one, but we were supposed to play both. But I still miss the WOMAD festivals very much.

Were you very aware of what Real World Records was?
Yeah, I understood it was a label by Peter Gabriel. I recorded a CD for Real World, The Lion of Zimbabwe, and that went down very well. I’m sure they’re still selling the CD. I actually enjoyed working with Peter Gabriel’s company.
Your music has such a link to your home. How important is it for you to continue to explore that, even though you haven’t lived there for a long time?
It’s very, very important. This is where I’m coming from and I’m one of them. Each time I play music for them, I feel really good. I miss home, too, like they miss home.

It's such powerful music. How risky has it been for you to continue to make music that’s considered quite controversial?
The poor people who are behind me who give me most of the support make me strong and stronger every time I go onstage.

When you are criticized for your work, how does that make you feel?
I actually don’t mind. People have their own feelings and can say what they want, but I won’t look back. I will always defend the poor and that’s where I belong.
Do you feel like you’ve created a home for yourself in Oregon?
Yeah, here it’s a nice place and a small town and also very quiet. My children have been able to go to school here peacefully. My daughter is now working as an accountant, she did economics at the University of Oregon and I have my youngest daughter, she’s in high school. That’s the last of my children and if she graduates, I will celebrate [laughs].

A lot of people hold you up as a folk hero, calling you the Lion of Zimbabwe. Is that hard to live up to?
It’s not hard to live up to, because that’s what I’m used to. I’ve been deemed a bad seed since I started playing this type of music. I’m not going to abandon the way. That’s the way I am and I’ll die the way I am.

Is that what you intended for yourself when you started playing music?
Well, when I first started playing music, I just thought the music was entertainment. But when I grew up, I knew music had a duty to play and support the poor people who are suffering in this world. Since I am a musician, it is my duty to fight against poverty and fight for the poor people. 

Source: by Andrea Warner -  CBC music

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