Zimbabwe is home to some of Africa’s most melodically gifted musicians, many of whom blend traditional instruments and rhythms with the electric instruments of modern African pop. For example, Thomas Mapfumo, known as “The Lion of Zimbabwe,” has pioneered Chimurenga music, which has become the voice of a proud Zimbabwean people (“chimurenga” is the Shona word for “revolutionary struggle”). Chimurenga features the mbira, an ancient Shona thumb piano, and is known to follow mbira music’s 12 beat polyrhythms, breaking the 12 beats into either four measures of three beats each or three measures of four beats each. Mapfumo came to musical prominence as part of Hallelujah Chicken Run Band–surely one of the best-named bands ever–which formed in the darkest days of Rhodesian colonialism when the Mangura Copper Mine hired musicians including Mapfumo, some of whom worked as chicken-tenders, to entertain its weary miners. Watch Mapfumo perform “Moyo Wangu.” Listen to the Chicken Run Band’s “Ndiyani Angandiudze” on YouTube. Hear a public radio feature on the Chicken Run Band.

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