Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited
Mapfumo's highly charged "chimurenga music" (music of struggle or justice) is revolutionary in many ways. In 1977 he was arrested and contained for political subversion, then obtained his release for a reconciliatory concert -- where he proceeded to play the offending songs as if nothing had happened. In terms of sound, Mapfumo was the first to break out of traditional forms and Western imitation, transferring mbira (thumb piano) lines to guitars and adding a U.S. Soul influence. Mapfumo's deep vocals lead his tight, rhythmic band the Blacks Unlimited through upbeat originals, driven by complicated rhythmic grooves and thick layers of melody that would entrance you if you tried to single them out. Add an offbeat bassline, and this classic Zimbabwean performer's grooves become irresistible African dance anthems.