In 1987, Thomas Mapfumo produced his seventh album. The Zimbabwean pop music market still ran on singles in those days, and Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited had been making plenty of those. But Mapfumo wanted each new album of songs to break new ground in some way. He had recorded his previous album (Chimurenga for Justice) in London, and had experimented with introducing reggae grooves into his sound. This time, with Zimbabwe/Mobambique, Mapfumo would create a landmark in the history of chimurenga music.
Zimbabwe/Mozambique was as close to a concept album as Mapfumo has ever made. All its songs somehow comment on the dire circumstances of war, in particular, the gruesome civil war being fought at that time in neighboring Mozambique. 'Zimbabwe Mozambique was about the unity between the peoples of these two countries,' recalls Mapfumo. 'Since our own liberation struggle, we had fought together. Everything that we did, we did together. So at that time the fight was still on and our fighters used to help the Mozambiquan army.' South African mercenaries, and Rhodesians and Portuguese embittered from defeats in Zimbabwean and Mozambiquan liberation wars, backed RENAMO's blood-thirsty assault on order in Mozambique, and just as Mapfumo had sung for the freedom fighters in Zimbabwe, he now sang for those in Mozambique.
A profound sense of moral purpose gripped the Blacks Unlimited as they recorded these five songs with new musicians and new ideas in a new studio. 'Serevende' introduced mbira, but not playing the sound familiar from Shona spirit possession ceremonies. This song uses a more steadfast Zimbabwean rhythm and conjures spirits with one of Mapfumo's most memorable and uplifting vocal melodies. 'Ndave Kuenda' provides a powerful example of Jonah Sithole's passionate mbira guitar playing. And the album's tour de force, 'Zimbabwe/Mozambique' begins as a gentle reggae number, and then shifts halfway to a fast, soul-searching 'jit' groove. This song has been a mainstay of Blacks Unlimited live performances ever since.
Banning Eyre, 2000