Thomas Mapfumo denied visa



Thomas Mapfumo denied visa
The US based singer was denied entry into Canada on his last tour.

By Al Green (aNOnym reCOrds), November 2003

“Here is the exclusive story from me, Captain Anonymous…

We set sail from Eugene on Monday, Nov. 10. Our US Visas for the coming year had been called into question over a simple mistake on the part of USCIS (Homerland Security), yet, we had the kind help of Congressman Peter DeFazio, OR, who had promised to help us however he could. We were certain that the Canadians would understand the problem, speak to the Congressman’s office, and let us enter the country. The trip was uneventful, but the four hundered mile wall of fog and the killer winds in Detroit made it hard going… still… we are survivors…

As we entered the Canadian Consulate, paying our $660, and filed into the tiny room for our interview, we were all a bit on edge.

The Canadian Official was resolute in first determining if we were indeed musicians. He asked us to sing a little tune, right there, for free. We sang a bit of Hey Jude, feeling it appropriate for the moment, and knowing that since he wouldn’t understand any Shona, it made no sense to sing in that language. He would have no idea if we really knew the words, or were just making up gibberish. We sang with little joy, I’m afraid our pirate version didn’t impress him.

Finally he got down to business… He wanted to know if the US would grant us re-entry after our gigs, and we gave him DeFazio’s phone number as proof that we had some governmental support, if not in the USCIS, at least in human form. He was not satisfied yet, so, he asked us to make up some stuff we might do if DeFazio failed to convince the USCIS to let us back in. We tried to be good and we made up some contingency plans on the spot, like, call the press, yell for help, etc.

He told us to come back in two hours…

When we did come back, he said that he would not let us into Canada. He had spoken to DeFazio’s office, who could not guarantee our rentry into the US. He started to get angry, and accused us of trying to illicitly enter his country with the intent of becoming refugees. He also accused us of “Changing our Story”, which he had asked us to do earlier by creating ‘contingency plans”.

Wow. All we wanted to do was play three gigs and leave his little country alone, but no, for him it was another group of lying Black faces who had to be dealt with harshly.

So, we were forced to cancel our little tour and head for Troy, NY, where the American leg of the tour began, a twelve hour drive away. We stopped for the night and cooked sadza on the bus. Mmmmmm… sadza nyama, it was good!

Thanks to God, an old Underground Railroad Outpost in Troy took us in and fed us, thank you again Scott and Tamar, and Steve at WRPI! We had a film crew visit, who filmed interviews and practice as well as the gig on Monday the 17th. Everyone showed up that night and bought a CD, so we were provided with funds for gas and food as we headed for St Louis. The band finally got paid too, so, we were all feeling better.

After the 24 hr. drive to St. Louis, we were able to rest at the Sheraton near Washington University, where we played the next day, the 20th. People really enjoyed the afternoon show, and again bought CDs. Thanks to Adelle Tuckler for fixing the check for payment so we could cash it on our way out of town the next day.

We had a 7pm gig in Lawrence KS on the 21st, and though Daniel from Omaha and his friends were upset that we had to quit at 9, they enjoyed the show. They had driven 4 hrs that day themselves to see Mukanya, we praise them for their dedication.

So the next day, we loaded aboard the pirate ship and headed out into the coldest, windiest, snowiest night we had ever seen across Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming. By the time we reached Idaho we were in the clear, and we rolled into Eugene about ten thirty Sunday evening. We were all sick by then, and very tired, but again, we are survivors.

The band is headed for UK today, look for them there at the usual haunts, and drop off a gift or buy a CD.

December 5, 2003: Leemarz, Birmingham
December 6, 2003: Kokonut Grove, London
December 12, 2003: SL1, Slough
December 13, 2003: Starlite, Leicester

Look for us in Zimbabwe after this, and hope for the best for that country, it’s people, and it’s spirit. Fortunately, they are survivors there…”

A Green
aNOnym reCOrds

See also “The Impact of Visa Crackdowns on World Music in the US”

Go to top
Related reading

Amal – Palestinian singer born and living in Israel – and rejected by every major Israeli record company, has set new standards in expressions based on cross Mediterranean influences.
Amal, singing in Arabic of suffering, sadness and hope, is constantly on the forefront in the fight against the exclusion and marginalisation of Arab music and culture by Israeli media.
This interview was recorded at the 2nd World Conference on Music and Censorship, Copenhagen, 28th of September 2002.

Amal Murkus - photo by Pia Laulund
Amal Murkus