By Kenneth Matimaire – ZIMBABAWE – Emanating from the North Western part of Zimbabwe is a young traditional band – Mokoomba whose unique blend of African rhythms and traditional Tonga drums complemented by a supple voice, easily mistaken to Malian music great Salif Keita, has made them a favourite of many overseas.
Their respect and understanding of their tradition, history and culture blended with celebration of life, its joys and sorrows, best describes the essence of Mokoomba and its approach to music.
They have transverse Europe and Africa extensively as well as being a regular feature at local and foreign music festivals.
A documentary profiling the band and its story, titled: “Mokoomba from one river bank to the next.” was shown at the World Music Expo (WOMEX) in Denmark on October 28. The same documentary was shown at the Zimbabwe International Film festival after its premier in Belgium.
With such a solid basis abroad, the Victoria Falls based ensemble is once again expected to reconnect with its African and European fans on a tour scheduled for next year. The band’s manager Marcus Gora said, “Mokoomba’s international agency is working on a three months long European tour for the next European summer as well as a number of African festivals.”
If all goes according to plans, the two historically bonded continents (Africa and Europe) will feel the very best of one of Zimbabwe’s traditional rhythms. The two continents will have the priviledge of listening to the up-coming second release of Mokoomba expected to hit the streets in December this year. The album is being produced by Manou Gallo (Ivory Coast/Belgium) for Unsigned Africa and G-Rex Records.
They will familiarize with Mokoomba’s debut album Kweseka-Drifting Ahead (8 tracks) and 9-track EP called Umvundla (Ndebele for Rabbit), which is a collaboration with Gregor Salto, a renowned Dutch house DJ. The EP was launched at a special flash mob event in Spui Square in Amsterdam, Netherlands and at the Spring Fiesta in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Gora described Umvundla as an, “Infectious dance music extravaganza with a unique blend of Gregor Salto’s mixing and production versatility and compelling compositions” from Mathias Muzaza, the band’s talented vocalist and the rich sounds from lead guitarist Trustworh Samende and bassist Abundance Mutori.
On the lead vocals is Muzaza, drummer Coster Ndaba Moyo, Samende (lead guitar), Mutori (bass guitar), Donald Moyo (keyboards) and Miti Mugande on percussions, makes up the deep cultural ensemble.
Though the young group is yet to break the ice at home (Zimbabwe) probably due to the language factor, it is amazing to note that Mokoomba has since become champions of Zimbabwe’s minority languages abroad, writing and singing in Tonga, Luvale, Nyanja, Luchazi, Mbunda and Ndebele. Soon they will be singing in Shona and English.
They are currently performing regularly at venues around Harare especially the Book Café and some private concerts promoting their albums.
Moreover, having their first video Messe-Messe from the debut album being voted as the number 11 on the ZBC top 50 videos for 2010 can be a sign of a prosperous future at home.
Mokoomba and Gregor Salto first got together in 2009 to record the chart-topping hit track “MesseMesse” as part of Mokoomba’s prize in the “Stand Up Take Action – End Poverty Campaign” competition run by EEN/GAAP and funded by Africa Unsigned.
They are winners of Music Crossroads Inter-regional Festival prize 2008, The Stand Up Take Action – End Poverty Campaign competition prize 2009.
The band is the first in Zimbabwe to use “crowd funding”, a new phenomenon designed to help bands record EPs and tour Europe with funding/investment from fans who will become share-holders in the projects. Mokoomba’s was selected by Africa Unsigned, a Netherlands based crowd funding project, founded by Pim Betist and works with artists/bands selected by a panel of African music experts like Baba Maal, Damon Albarn, Tony Allen and Angela Angweni.
Mokoomba are showing the way forward for the new generation of musicians, who are often disheartened by music industry challenges in the country.
According to Gora, “In Zimbabwe, upcoming bands are finding it difficult to get started let alone survive as the local music industry is besieged by major challenges largely due to dwindling CD sales. It has been a comfortable position to blame all the industry ills on
piracy but new models are now required to ensure that not only is good and new music recorded but also effectively delivered to the market. Mokoomba are giving a strong example”.
Through crowd funding, young bands like Mokoomba are now making world class recordings, collaborating with international artists and producers and reaching wide local and international audiences.
Other Zimbabwean artists on Africa Unsigned are Rina Mushonga and Victor Kunonga. Africa Unsigned also working with several other African bands such as Mali, South Africa, Senegal, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania.