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As both a musical revolutionary and a revolutionary musician, Zimbabwean Thomas Mapfumo has been a force in shaping his country's future since he established his signature style, chimurenga, in the 1970s. Chimurenga means to fight or struggle, and struggle Mapfumo has--not only to bring independence to Zimbabwe but to broaden the traditional Shona mbira style with the Western sounds of electric guitars, horns and a drum kit. His immense popularity in Zimbabwe resulted in 90 days of imprisonment in 1977, but even then his people refused to betray him--prison employees brought food from their own homes to supplement the meager jail fare. Decades later, Mapfumo takes his call for justice on tour around the world. Hear the man and his band, Blacks Unlimited, blend the hypnotic mbira music with a political message full of innuendo and proverbs at Cat's Cradle on July 26. For more information, call 967-9053.

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In an average week, we'd be pretty lucky to see one legendary rock goddess, much less two. This week is the rare exception with Joan Armatrading (pictured) performing Wednesday, July 26, and Patti Smith performing Saturday, July 29. Smith you almost certainly know about: One of the most influential women in rock, she was a key player in the New York CBGB's punk scene, walked away from it all to marry MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith, then returned full-time to touring and recording after Fred's death in 1994--further cementing her status as a legend. She'll perform at The Ritz in Raleigh. Call 967-9053 for show time. $20 in advance; $22 day of show.

Though revered in Europe for nearly 30 years, Armatrading has remained a cult favorite in the United States. Born in the Caribbean and raised in England, her music is notable for its catchy blend of reggae, folk and soul. Armatrading will perform at 8 p.m. at the Carolina Theatre in Durham. Don Dixon opens. Call 560-3030. $40; $30; $25. --Karen A. Mann

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Canadian neotraditionalists The Paperboys make their first foray into the Southeast United States at a July 29 show at The ArtsCenter. Playing a fusion of bluegrass, Celtic, folk and pop--which they describe as stomp--The Paperboys have packed the house in hometown Vancouver, Seattle and Toronto with their six-piece band. The group formed in 1992, shortly after lead vocalist Tom Landa moved Vancouver from Mexico City and, in addition to bringing a Spanish accent to the music, Landa pens most of the songs and becomes the charismatic frontman at shows. After three albums, several songs on film scores and a European tour planned for this fall, The Paperboys are well on their way to gaining international acclaim for their international sound. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $8 for ArtsCenter friends. Check out the Web site of co-sponsors Bull City Cosmic Hoedown (www.hoedown.org) for more details about the show.

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