4 July 2012

Zimbabwe: Max Mapfumo Itching for Comeback

MAX Mapfumo, the man behind the successful yesteryear music outfit Dopiro Crew, that made a name in the mid-1980s with a string of hit singles including "Dopiro", says he is now ready to make a huge splash in showbiz.

The artist who started his music career in the late 1970s as leader of the People's Band which comprised combatants of the liberation war -- has been "missing in action" for close to a decade in the music scene.

This prompted his fans to ask about the whereabouts of this famed leader of Dopiro Crew. If anything, his name had become synonymous with Dopiro Crew.

The Herald Entertainment recently caught up with the artist who revealed that he was working on a comeback.

"I am working on new material and the name of the group is still the same," said Mapfumo who together with Dopiro Crew was among some of the country's leading musicians more than 20 years ago.

They were in the same league with the late Simon Chimbetu, John Chibadura, Mukoma Ketai, Ephraim Joe and Leonard Dembo, among others.

Although the Dopiro Crew could sometimes play for peanuts hopping from one club to the other, they, however, sustained their shows, emerging as one of the hottest groups of the time.

Despite the fame that he gained from yesteryear, he doesn't have much to show for it save for the role that he played in building Dopiro Crew.

While many people will expect the artist to be driving in a posh car owing to the fame from his career, the opposite is true.

"I never got much from music. Yes, it was good in those days but it was not well paying," he said.

Mapfumo also said he was now prepared to deal with the number of challenges that he has been facing in the music industry hence his disappearance from the entertainment scene

"I took a break from active music out of frustration. I was not happy with the way that my music was being pirated. I have since teamed up with some other people to form an anti-piracy organisation to fight the scourge," revealed the Mufakose-based artist.

"I am worried by the way that our music is being pirated and this has affected a number of musicians. As a result, we have formed an organisation called the Music and Visual Anti-Piracy Organisation of Zimbabwe, which although it has been functional since 2008, only gained recognition this year.

"The formation of the organisation was made possible by Minister Webster Shamu's efforts and support in uprooting piracy," said Mapfumo.

Although Mapfumo confessed that he was struggling to make ends meet, saying he didn't have "proper means of survival" at his disposal, he, however, expressed confidence that he would make a resounding comeback looking at the manner events were unfolding in the industry.

"The anti-piracy raids and other operations have made a difference in the arts industry because people (retailers) are beginning to queue at recording companies like Gramma to buy music in volumes because they know the long arm of the law will catch up with them," he said.

Mapfumo, who limps owing to an injury he sustained in his right leg during the liberation struggle where he was operating as a combatant in Mozambique, said:

"Nhava yacho haisi kuzara. Although I benefited from the War Veterans' Fund, this didn't take me far. I am struggling to eke out a living. I hope this will change for the better when I start holding shows and selling my music," he said.

In February, Mapfumo and his group made a surprise appearance at the national gala held in Chipinge.

"Music is now different from the time we used to play because back then, there was stiff competition. Artists played their unique styles, unlike these days when artistes copy one another.

"The musicians back then respected our own African culture which they promoted through music, whereas the young artistes nowadays are more into foreign music.

"We are going to release a new album soon and once we secure the services of a good manager, we will then starting touring the country holding shows."

Born on March 28, 1955 in Bikita, Masvingo, Mapfumo started music in Chimoio, Mozambique, around the end of 1977 where he was liberation fighter for Zimbabwe's Independence.

After Independence in 1980, Mapfumo recorded his first single "Unoguma Wapera" (1981) backed by The People's Band.

The band later changed to the Jupiter Kings and recorded hit singles "Dopiro" (1986), "Zviripo Zvakudaro" (1987), "Padikidiki Pasara" (1988) before the group disbanded in 1990.

"I then formed the Dopiro Crew from the name of the hit single," said Mapfumo, who is also a member of Full Gospel Church.

Some of Mapfumo's recorded albums include "Gurumwandira", "Jakwara1", "Jakwara2", "Nyonganyonga" and "Jakwara International".

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