I am very jealous of countries who have prominent protest musicians. In Russia, all the big ones are pro-government, and all the anti-government musicians are too small to be noticeable. It used to be a little better back in the Soviet Union, and the protest songs of the proletariat are legendary, so perhaps things will change. Meanwhile, I love listening to the songs of other people’s struggle. For instance, Thomas Mapfumo, the lion of Zimbabwe. An immensely influential artist and a staunch critic of Mugabe’s regime, Mapfumo had been living in the US in exile. However, this year he made it back to his homeland and performed in front of the ecstatic audience. His songs—in the unique genre invented by Mapfumo, chimurenga—are both very Zimbabwean, and very easy to relate to from all over the world. One of my favorites is Corruption, where the chorus of angelic voices sings “Corruption…corruption…in the society”. Truly a hymn for our times.
Lion Songs: Essential Tracks in the Making of Zimbabwe by Thomas Mapfumo
Released in 2015