I Smoke Weed – Thomas Mapfumo


Chimurenga music star Thomas Mapfumo says the illegality of marijuana is an injustice because the ‘weed’ was created by God, according to his just-released biography penned by American ethnomusicologist and guitarist Banning Eyre.

In the 362-page biography titled Lion Songs: Thomas Mapfumo and the music that made Zimbabwe published by Duke University Press, the chimurenga music legend says the illegal status of marijuana is an injustice “oppressing a section of the population.”

The Pamuromo Chete singer, who reportedly banned beer at his home in Oregon, United States of America (USA), says marijuana energises him.

“If I smoke ganja I feel motivated to get into action and start working. I joke with my children and my wife. I say a lot of stories to them, always thinking of my family as the first priority of my life,” he is quoted in the voluminous biography.

The widespread use of marijuana by Mapfumo and some members of his Blacks Unlimited band is reflected throughout the biography.

While on tour in West Berlin in Germany in 1984 the chimurenga’s legend’s beloved marijuana almost turned fatal.

“When Thomas fell asleep one evening with a burning hashish spliff in his hand, (Christoph) Borkowsky (a German music promoter) said he nearly lost his house as well,” part of the biography reads.

In 1986 Mapfumo and Zimbabwean music promoter Mike Mhundwa briefly left London where the Blacks Unlimited were on tour for Kingston, Jamaica where Mhundwa was hoping to book Gregory Isaacs for a concert in Harare. They were intrigued by the ganja-smoking in the Jamaican capital city.

“The high-point of their Jamaican sojourn was a ritualistic ganja-smoking encounter with “the Professor,” a Rasta spiritual figure in Isaac’s circle. Thomas was entranced by the scene at the Professor’s compound, with dreadlocked children running around and burly Rastas smoking from an enormous clay chalice,” Eyre wrote.

An ex-Blacks Unlimited manager Bob Coen recalled the frustration that rocked the Blacks Unlimited camp when then the band ran out of marijuana in Kansas during their first tour of America in 1989.

Coen remembered, “There were scary moments on that tour. There was a Kansas show where ganja had run out.” A planned three-week supply had vanished within days, despite Bob’s effort to ration.

Coen added: “The last joint was smoked around sound check .It’s now the show and Thomas is like, “There is no ganja. There is no show. I can’t go on.”

According to the juicy biography marijuana was very expensive during that tour:

“Marijuana was scarce and expensive during that fall and Bob had found that a $400 bag lasted the band only a couple of days. When this expense exhausted petty cash Thomas would say, “Take it off salary.”

According to Eyre, Mapfumo, however, “acknowledged that marijuana was not for everyone, and he never offered his spliff to someone he considered too young to make a mature choice.”

Interestingly the biography observes, “His songs contain not a single reference to smoking (because) he was never an advocate, only a person born to smoke ganja. Smoking was not an act of partying for Thomas.”