Episode 1:

The Digital Now, The Changing Same

0:00 Hello. This is the first episode of the Mhondoro Marauders Show. I might change that name later but in the eleventh hour this is the not totally comfortable title I’ve gone with, borrowed from A Tribe Called Quest and Thomas Mapfumo. More on this soon. I am on your screen. I will be enhancing your headphones and speakers with certain facts that you may find beneficial. The average bounce meter for the Mhondoro Marauder show will be in the area of 140 BPM. We hope that you will find our presentation precise, polyphonic, heavy, and just right. Thanks.

0:51 And Hello. I’m Thandi Loewenson, and I’m honoured to be in a constructed conversation of sorts with a number of people here today - on zoom, and in the air of broadcast from decades ago. So over to Mr Mapfumo - Thomas - the legendary lion of Chimurenga music introducing us to the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band which I have been obsessing about lately. Exactly why, and how this relates to Space travel will hopefully become clearer as we go.

‘...that was in 1973 when I went to Mhangura. Mhangura is a place where they mine copper. We went there to form a band and the band was called Hallelujah Chicken Run, because most band members were working at the chicken run. Well Hallelujah Chicken Run was a new band and with new music, with new ideas, we decided to compose our own music which we decided to call afro-rock. And there was only one tune that was not afro-rock. It was really, I mean, a Zimbabwean traditional tune. Out of all the singles that we recorded, that single, that record, is the only one that people accepted, because this record was militant. It was about the war…’

Excerpt from interview with Thomas Mapfumo by Banning Eyre on Lion Songs Essential Tracks in the Making of Zimbabwe

Excerpt from ////// Ngoma Yarira - Hallelujah Chicken Run Band //////

03:18 The track you hear here is Ngoma Yarira - the drum is beating - and you cannot underestimate the importance of the drum as a medium of space travel, as a technology capable of evading the limitations of, and of calling gravity’s bluff. Eddie George knows exactly what I mean - and here he narrates the Data Thief’s encounter with a new word - Africa.


[Narrator] Roaming the internet, the Data Thief discovers a new word—Africa. Somewhere in these streets is the secret of the Mothership. The Data Thief knows that the first touch with science fiction came when Africans began playing drums to cover distance. Water carried the sound of the drums, and sound covered the distance between the Old and the New World.

4:28 Excerpt from ////// It’s Nation Time - Amiri Baraka  //////

It’s Nation Time.

Time to get


time to be one strong fast black energy


        one pulsating positive magnetism,


time to get up and




come, time to

        be come

        time to

        get up be come

black genius rise in spirit muscle …

Sun man get up rise hard

heart of universes to be

future of the world

the black man is the future of the world

be come

rise up

future of the black genius spirit reality


from crushed roach back

from dead snake head

from wig funeral in slowmotion

from dancing teeth and coward tip

from jibberjabber patme boss patme



05:39 Back to the New World.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what we mean by the Digital Now, now, and I suppose  the work I’m developing as part of this fellowship aims to question, unpack and explode this Digital Now in a number of ways. My work is interested in African Space Programmes, their emancipatory potential and contradictions, and within the bounds of this fellowship I am particularly interested to explore what we mean by realms of the digital in this space.

Increasingly, I am finding that the Western tropes of what constitutes technology are carceral, and wildly insufficient. I want to turn here to another voice in the late great Amiri Baraka in his essay Technology and Ethos.  Now bear in mind that this was written round about the 1970’s, so hear it from that lens, quote:

These white scientists on lifetime fellowships, or pondering problems at Princeton’s Institute For Advanced Study.

produce a telephone as one culture’s solution to the problem of sending words through space. It is political power that has allowed this technology to emerge, & seem the sole direction for the result desired.

A typewriter?–why should it only make use of the tips of the fingers as contact points of flowing multi directional creativity. If I invented a word placing machine, an “expression-scriber,” if  you  will, then I would have a kind of instrument into which I could step & sit or sprawl or hang & use not only my fingers to make words express feelings but elbows, feet, head, behind, and all the sounds I wanted, screams, grunts, taps, itches, I’d have magnetically recorded, at the same time, & translated into word–or perhaps even the final xpressed thought/feeling wd not be merely word or sheet, but itself, the xpression, three dimensional–able to be touched, or tasted or felt, or entered, or heard or carried like a speaking singing constantly communicating charm.

A typewriter is corny!!

The so called fine artist realizes, those of us who have freed ourselves, that our creations need not emulate the white man’s, but it is time the engineers, architects, chemists, electronics craftsmen, ie film too, radio, sound, &c., that learning western technology must not be the end of our understanding of the particular discipline we’re involved in. Most of that west shaped information is like mud and sand when you’re panning for gold!

08:20 So taking this to mean that the discipline of held definitions function to make our world smaller, I am interested in what is happening not just in but also to space and time when Hallelujah Chicken Run Band come to perform Ngoma Yarira. Invited in by the mine company to keep miners entertained, and presumably on site during down time, they reconfigured the rules they had been dealt. Under the cover of this occupation they started to perform in a manner that would distort time and space, enlivening — quite literally — the spirits of revolutionary action.

08:58 Excerpt from ////// Pamuromo Chete - Thomas Mapfumo //////

09:58 You hear this in the sound of Mapfumo’s voice - bringing the wail of the bira ceremony in which families come together to call forth a possession and invite their ancestors back for guidance.

10:10 You hear this in the furious polyphonic pace of the music at 100, 130, 140 bpm. Coming back to the Data Thief, speaking about a similar energy in Grime,  Eddie George describes this as a condition of living within the strictures of racialising, oppressive systems of control and still managing to enact a mastering of time; of pushing back against time and space compression and finding flourishing within in.

10:40 Excerpt from ////// Gwindigwi Rine Shumba - Thomas Mapfumo //////

11:40 This is Space Travel. Nothing short of a metaphysical transformation of the rules of space and time. So I want to put it, that in a song like Ngoma Yarira, or Gwindingwi Rine Shumba (in the mountains there are lions) there is something akin to the technology that we might find in a Space Programme.

12:01 This is a technology able to withstand extreme heat and the stifling pressure of the cold, to  survive the low oxygen levels of the upper reaches of the planet’s atmosphere and to evade the pull of low Earth orbit. This is Space Travel, but this time, the Space Programme is not corny. Somehow sound offers a fascinating dimension then to the Digital Now in this context. Coming back to Baraka, I want to read a short extract from his essay The Changing Same. Baraka writes:

12:37 Read over excerpt from ////// Money Wont Change You - James Brown //////

‘...If you play James Brown (say, “Money Won’t Change You…but time will take you out”) in a bank, the total environment is changed. Not only the sardonic comment of the lyrics, but the total emotional placement of the rhythm, instrumentation and sound. An energy is released in the bank, a summoning of images that take the bank, and everybody in it, on a trip. That is, they visit another place. A place where Black People live.

But dig, not only is it a place where Black People live, it is a place in the spiritual precincts of its emotional telling, where Black People move in almost absolute openness and strength…’

13:30 I’ve also been thinking recently about another technology. One that freedom fighters in Zimbabwe developed called the ‘bush telegraph’. This was a whisper network in which boys herding cattle, pregnant women, men pretending to be drunk by the roadside and so on- would perform acts of surveillance on the white supremacist forces and pass on information about them across vast distances in the country quietly, covertly, and by word of mouth. This network allowed guerrillas to evade and out manoeuvre the colonial forces to the extent that figures in the Rhodesian intelligence noted after independence how much more sophisticated this was than their own surveillance systems.

14:18 Something similar is happening here to the moments when Hallelujah Chicken Run Band go undercover, spreading messages of dissent, of revolt, releasing an energy that summons images that, in Baraka’s words, ‘take these spaces, and everybody in them  on a trip to another place, where Black people can live.’


‘...Pamuromo chete…means just mere talking. We were actually making a counter-attack on Mr Smith’s words that he would never see a Black government rule in a thousand years. So we said, that was ‘just talking’. This song became an instant hit. So like you know that the acid band was becoming a very big act’

Excerpt from interview with Thomas Mapfumo by Banning Eyre on Lion Songs Essential Tracks in the Making of Zimbabwe

15:07 I recently heard AbdouMaliq Simone speak about the transmutational power of liminal spaces. At once one thing, and also entirely another. Both useless, and making use of everything. And Simone speaks about a mutating ensemble of technics that makes this bending of space-time-matter possible.  I quote:

‘And by technics I don’t mean just metabolic functions, smart cities, geovisulation, broadband cables, but rather a choreography of other kinds of switches, conveyances and motors. Technics includes ensembles of lures, traps, bluffs, dramas, dissimulation, soundscapes, bodily arrangements and more.’

15:50 What happens when we engage these systems as science, as technology, on a par (or maybe even more sophisticated).... Undoubtedly this makes our Digital Worlds, larger Now.

Excerpt from ////// God Lives Through - A Tribe Called Quest //////