Ty Burr
January 25, 1991 AT 05:00 AM EST

Spirit of the Eagle: Zimbabwe Frontline Vol. 2

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
performer
Various Artists
genre
World

We gave it a C+

When ground-breaking bandleader Thomas Mapfumo single-handedly overhauled Zimbabwean pop music in the early ’70s, the revolution was more than musical. The country was called Rhodesia then, and Mapfumo’s chimurenga (or ”liberation”) singles, sung in a language the ruling whites didn’t understand, helped galvanize a struggle that triumphed in black majority rule in 1980. The many groups that bloomed in the ensuing freedom specialized in the sounds of delight: gorgeously circular guitar riffs, chattering cymbals, and lyrics that celebrated the dawn of a new world. Ten years later, however, Spirit of the Eagle indicates the scene could use some fresh blood. The current stars are here — Patrick Mkwamba, the Four Brothers, Nyami Nyami Sounds — but a keenness, an edge, is missing from most of the tracks. The exception is Mapfumo himself, who continues to be one of the most majestic performers on the planet. His two cuts are not just this album’s high points — they’re chapters in a private artistic revolution that refuses to stop, even when the party seems to be over for everybody else. C+

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