New Dawn in ZImbabwe

The events of the last 24 hours in Zimbabwe are exciting and long overdue! It seems that the end of the Mugabe era is at last at hand. As a sign, we hear that Thomas Mapfumo's music is once again being played freely on the radio in Zimbabwe. 

As a small gesture of celebration, Lion Songs, the book, is now on sale for $20. I humbly suggest that it is a fine way to catch up on the remarkable history leading up to this remarkable moment.



Mhoze Chikowero and Banning Eyre share the prize. Nice shirts, guys!

Mhoze Chikowero and Banning Eyre share the prize. Nice shirts, guys!

I am thrilled to announce that Lion Songs shares the Society for Ethnomusicology Kwabena. Nketia Book Prize for 2016 with Mhoze Chikowero's African Music, Power, and Being in Colonial Zimbabwe (2015 Indiana University Press). The prizes were announced by ethnomusicologist Jean Kidula at the annual SEM meeting in Washington DC on November 11.

The announcement noted that both books are "compelling historical works on the working of music in Zimbabwe's contemporary national and social politics."  Regarding Lion Songs in particular, Kidula said, "We didn't want to put the book down. It felt like a novel.... Banning's writing is engaging and poetic, carefully utilizing storytelling, biographies, and detailed descriptions as well as analyses of sonic and extrasonic elements." 

Extrasonic indeed! Interesting that Mhoze is a historian and I am a writer, but we seem to have written the panel's favorite ethnomusicology works of the year. I should note that Mhoze is a friend, and we worked together on an Afropop Worldwide program on Thomas Mapfumo during the Mugabe Years. It's an honor to share this prize with him. And thanks to SEM and the panel for their vote of confidence. 

Hoping they will now buy the book and CD, from this website!

Lion Songs on NPR's All Things Considered

Getting ready to hit the road with Lion Songs. So far, getting some significant love from radio.

Probably the biggest catch so far is this interview with Robert Siegel at NPR's All Things Considered,  Robert told me that he covered Zimbabwe's liberation struggle from London in the early days of NPR, so he had a real feeling for the subject. He's more of a classical music guy, but Mapfumo's sound clearly touched him, especially the mbira-based songs, whose connection to Shona religion fascinated him.

The interview was, of course, longer than this, but the editing was very nicely done. Kudos to Greg Dixon on that.  The only thing I miss was our discussion of how Lion Songs tries to understand the feelings and thinking of those who defend Robert Mugabe's controversial land policy. Robert pressed me on that, and we got a bit into the weeds--but interesting weeds.  Well, another time. I can't complain. It's a fine piece.

And many more interviews to come...

Sahara TV Interview

Well the interviews for Lion Songs are rolling out. I recorded one with Robert Siegel for NPR's All Things Considered. If all goes to plan, it will air tomorrow (Friday, May 22).  

Meanwhile, I did a nice interview for an African internet TV outfit out of New York, Sahara TV. I liked this interview well because the interviewer, Fungai Maboreke, is a Zimbabwean who brings personal experience to the subject, and he had read the book cover to cover.  Nice conversation. Have a look...

Launch Day

Well, the book has arrived. I'm back from the high seas. The West Coast promotion swing is coming together. All good on my end.

As for my man Thomas Mapfumo, not so rosy. His much anticipated tour in South Africa had to be postponed due to the xenophobic violence against African immigrants going on there. It seems Europe and America don't have a lock on this sort of ugliness. The promotors apparently didn't think it a great idea to attract a large gathering of Zimbabweans under these conditions. The word is the tour will be rescheduled for September. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Thomas and the band are working locally to promote their long awaited new album Danger Zone.  Here's a recently posted video of the core Blacks Unlimited playing the opening tune "Chikozero" in a studio in Eugene, Oregon.


Welcome to the new  We’ve revamped the site in honor of the release of my long-gestating book on Thomas Mapfumo and Zimbabwe, Lion Songs: Thomas Mapfumo and the Music that Made Zimbabwe. Officially, the book drops on May 22. But I will have copies on hand by May 1.  The companion CD, 14 killer Mapfumo tracks, and 9 spicy interview excerpts, will also be available then. This CD is the one place you can experience the entire sweep of Mapfumo’s work on a single disc.  And the book…well, we’ll see what the reviewers say, but I think it’s one of a kind. Never before has the story of an African musician and his work been so fully interwoven with history in a biography.

In the windup to the big release, I’ve been on a ship in the Atlantic, lecturing and arranging concerts for some adventurous seafaring travelers.  Not the ideal place to be in advance of a book launch, but the gig was too good to pass up.

Just the same, events are coming together as you can see in the Events listing on this site. I’ve got a terrific multi-media presentation to go with Lion Songs, including a demo of mbira guitar, and of other Mapfumo-related guitar playing, maybe even a little singing. I’m on the “chimurenga” mission over the next few months, so come to one of my events if you can. And let me know if you have ideas for events I can do in your town.  My band Timbila is available for larger events, and I’m always happy to collaborate with others.

Also, you may be able to find my books and CDs for lower prices elsewhere, but if you order from this site, all books come signed, and you will earn the author's undying gratitude!