Boomkat Product Review:
Wicked survey of “Chimurenga” music from Zimbabwe, originally realised during the ‘70s as a subtly punkish way of incorporating local Shona language lyrics and traditional Mbira styles into a fusion of Afro-Rock, Cha-Cha-Cha, and Congolese Rumba, and subverting the ruling white minority government of what was known as Rhodesia in the process
“In 1972, the country of Rhodesia – as Zimbabwe was then known – was in the middle of a long-simmering struggle for independence from British colonial rule. In the hotels and nightclubs of the capital, bands could make a living playing a mix of Afro-Rock, Cha-Cha-Cha and Congolese Rumba. But as the desire for independence grew stronger, a number of Zimbabwean musicians began to look to their own culture for inspiration. They began to emulate the staccato sound and looping melodies of the mbira (thumb piano) on their electric guitars, and to replicate the insistent shaker rhythms on the hi-hat; they also started to sing in the Shona language and to add overtly political messages to their lyrics (safe in the knowledge that the predominantly white minority government wouldn’t understand them). From this collision of electric instruments and indigenous traditions, a new style of Zimbabwean popular music – later known as Chimurenga, from the Shona word for ‘struggle’ – was born. And there were few bands more essential to the development of this music than the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band.
The band came into being when a young trumpet player named Daram Karanga offered to assemble a group to entertain the workers at a copper mine in the town of Mhangura. The original line-up – which included legendary singer Thomas Mapfumo, who would bring the sounds of Chimurenga to the world in the early 1980s with his band the Blacks Unlimited, and Joshua Hlomayi, one of the pioneers of mbira- style guitar – started out playing the Rumba and Afro-Rock styles popular in the capital. Although this was a hit with the white owners of the mine, the workers greeted it with indifference. But when they started adding electric arrangements of traditional Shona music to their repertoire, the audience went wild.”