I am still yet to come across any constitution in this world which stipulates that a musician should retire at a particular age. If such regulations existed, the likes of Jimmy Cliff or Sir Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones would be out of business by now. I know that in some professions such as the judiciary and police, the constitutional requirements regarding retirement of judges and commissioners are often adhered to.
It was Thomas Mapfumo’s 76th birthday this month. He was born on July 3, 1945. Mapfumo announced sometime last year after his two Zimbabwe tours, which were promoted by Max Mugaba, that he would retire at the age of 75.
However, events taking place now show that he is still working beyond his own stipulated retirement age.
Below is the message coming from Mapfumo himself on his Facebook page which was released to the public on July 3, 2021.
Hello Chimurenga Music fans, thank you for stopping by the Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited page. Many of you have often asked why we did not have an official Facebook page, but at one point we did. We had a page with over 40 000 followers, opened by Thomas’ family. The former band manager was given access to that page, and when that said former manager parted ways with the band, he refused to hand the page back and de-activated it. So here we are, starting over and hoping you will support us once again. While we are here clarifying some things, we would like to make some things very clear, especially with regards to who represents Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited. There is some confusion as to who speaks on behalf of the band and it has caused a lot of chaos in our camp.
Austin Sibanda is not the manager of the Blacks Unlimited band. Blessing IvanVava is not Thomas Mapfumo’s publicist. There has been confusion, including interviews where this misrepresentation has taken place for so long and we would like to make it very clear that these people have not worked with The Blacks Unlimited since December 2018. There have been several other instances of people who know Mr Mapfumo personally, taking it upon themselves to conduct business under his name. At this moment, only Thomas Mapfumo speaks for Thomas Mapfumo. If it does not come from any of his official platforms, it is not from him.
All merchandise is sold via the band’s website. We do not sell merchandise through WhatsApp, or any other platforms other than the website. We also do not have a WhatsApp group chat, nor do we support such groups as they are fuelling illegal sharing of the artiste’s music. Please note that publication or sharing of Thomas Mapfumo’s music/artistic material on any platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.) without written permission from Thomas Mapfumo’s legal representation is a serious violation of copyright laws. We urge anyone who has published Thomas Mapfumo’s music, live performances, rehearsals, etc. without written permission fromChimurenga Music Company to take it down with immediate effect. Failure to do so will result in legal consequences.
If you would like to book the band, please use their website contact form. If you would like to purchase the band’s music, please go to the known online music platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube and the band’s website. If you would like to keep up with the band and support them please follow this page; @Official Mukanya (Twitter); and officialthomasmapfumo (IG). The band’s official website is Thomas -mapfumo.com
Thank you for your continued support!”
From the look of it, Mapfumo is still very active. The last paragraph reads “Ïf you would like to book the band… .etc” meaning that he has not retired yet.
However,his former manager, Austin Sibanda and his former publicist are no longer working with him.
Enter Sam Mataure. When Mataure who had been Oliver Mtukudzi’s manager and drummer saw that gap in 2018, he thought that he could persuade Mapfumo to take him on as his manager. Mapfumo to some extent agreed, but Mataure was unfortunate that when he reached Portland, Oregon in the United States where Mapfumo resides, he fell sick and was hospitalised. Mapfumo saw this development as a burden to him. He took care of Mataure, but as soon as he was healed he persuaded him to go back to Zimbabwe. Mataure could not even operate as a drummer because he had been paralysed on his left side after the stroke he had suffered. Mataure then came back to Zimbabwe. They met again in October 2019 when Mapfumo went to give a performance at Ekhuruleni Boksburg Hotel in South Africa. Mataure persuaded music promoter, Josh Hozheri to take him to South Africa as he had a strong desire to show Mapfumo that he was now fit again. He still wanted to be Maapfumo’s manager. I spoke to Mataure before he left Zimbabwe about his ambitions and Mapfumo’s announced retirement and this is what he had to say: “What nonsense, Mdhara can’t retire just like that. I am going to persuade him to re-think. He is still fit and strong. I am going to the US and talk to him to hold two major concerts after the Covid-19 pandemic is gone, and then he can retire”.
In May this year, Mataure decided to have a second go at it. After all, his visa to the US was still valid. When he reached Oregon Airport, due to Covid-19 restrictions, he was quarantined for 14 days before he could meet Thomas Mapfumo. I followed him via WhatsApp and here is what I found out. Mataure has not been well again. He is having trouble with his breathing and might prove to be a burden once more to Mapfumo. Now who should be managing who? We will see what happens as events unfold.
When the Chimurenga musician turned 76 years of age, one could tell he was still full of life as he began to make plans for the future.
The US-based musician said he was “extremely blessed to have a full life.”
As he put it: “I am 76 years old today and looking back at my life, I can honestly say that I have been extremely blessed to have lived a full life,” Mukanya said in a statement.
“I have managed to make a living out of my God-given gift, seen the world and lived long enough to see my children grow. Ndinotenda Mwari nemudzimu vandisvitsa pandiri nhasi. (I thank God and all my ancestoral spirits for having taken me this far.) I also thank my fans for always supporting me — God bless you all and thank you for the love!” he said.
Indeed Mapfumo has travelled the world through his God-given gift. He has been to The United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, the United States of America, South Africa and several other countries plying his trade.
In my analysis, I do not think that there is a retirement age for musicians. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones who are close to their 80s are still pulling in the crowds in concert-filled halls. For as long as the demand from the fans is still there, there is no need to retire.
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Banning Eyre, author of Mapfumo’s Lion Songs book writes:
“Thomas Mapfumo, the lion of Zimbabwe stands beside FelaKuti, Youssou N’dour and Franco as one of Africa’s greatest and most consequential bandleaders. He has merged ancient African traditions of the sacred metal-pronged Shona mbira into the currents of international music.”
Banning Eyre is a writer, guitarist, photographer and music producer. He has written about international music, especially African music, since 1988. During all that time, he has been a lead producer for the syndicated, Peabody Award-winning public radio programme known as Afropop Worldwide.
In some organisations, lack of post-retirement security also induces some of workers to understate their ages in order to postpone retirement.
Formusicans, there is no active pension and there is no retirement age.
As for Mapfumo, with his illustrious musical career which has gone on for over 50 years and has been well-known for his criticism of Zanu PF governments through songs such as Mamvemve and Corruption, there is no need to retire as his songs have remained popular both in Zimbabwe and internationally. His songs mostly speak about the suffering of ordinary people, corruption and ask the government to respect the rule of law.
Mukanya has been persecuted on several occasions starting with the Ian Smith regime during Rhodesia and later by then now late President Robert Mugabe’s government which forced him to settle in exile. For as long as he remains alive, we feel that he must also keep his music alive.