Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Bhundu Boys: The Shed Sessions [Sadza, 2001]
Where the stoned undertow of Thomas Mapfumo's chimurenga remembered struggle, the light, bright jit of Zimbabwe's Bhundu Boys was pure liberation music. Leader Biggie Tembo named them after his role as a runner in Mugabe's army, but that was over, and did they ever sound happy about it. Revving mbira guitar into soukous flights as they loosened intense Soul Brothers harmonies, they caught Britain's sole Afropop wave in the middle '80s and concocted an English-language crossover album nobody found as accessible as the two Shona LPs that made it possible. A decade later four of them were dead--three of AIDS, the long-departed or -ousted Tembo a suicide and Mugabe was a certified tyrant. In historical perspective, the ebullience of this two-CD set, everything from the first two albums plus half a dozen nonfiller extras, is pop innocence at its most poignant. They're not faking a thing--they were young, and they'd known triumph. But soon enough they would be. A-