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Hokoyo! by Thomas Mapfumo & the Acid Band

Welcome to the world from when sprang Thomas Mapfumo - he’s endured all that un-niceness and more. He’s from Zimbabwe (born 1945) and though influenced by Otis Redding and Elvis Presley (covering their songs), he first achieved fame for adapting traditional Shona music to rock & soul electric instrumentation (singing in that Bantu language too). Eventually things got too "hot" for Mapfumo in Africa (many of his songs are very political), hence, he relocated in Oregon. In 2001, he collaborated with avant-garde jazz icon Wadada Leo Smith (the disc Dreams and Secrets).

Mapfumo’s first album under his own name, Hokoyo! (translation: watch out!) is from 1978, and this is likely its first wide release in the USA. As for the name of his band, acid doesn’t mean the same in TM’s neck of the woods as it does in ours - in other words, this isn’t psychedelic (at least not in the usual sense of the word). There’s no listing of musicians, but guitars, saxophone, drums, percussion, and a vocal chorus are audible. The guitars sparkle and sputter, the rhythms groove and percolate, almost like ska but lighter; Mapfumo’s singing is husky, soulful, and exultant, the melodies almost hypnotic and mos def danceable. While this writer is no expert (TM has a sizeable discography), Hokoyo! makes for a nice introduction for newbies (to either TM or African guitar sounds -- if you like King Sunny Ade and/or Paul Simon’s Graceland you may well dig this too) and fans, naturally, will have to swoop down on it (as well they should). Short (39 minutes) but dandy.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Thomas Mapfumo & the Acid Band
  • CD Title: Hokoyo!
  • Genre: World Music
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Reissue Original Release: 1978
  • Record Label: Water
  • Rating: Four Stars
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