Zimbabwe’s Mokoomba rewrites Tonga history

By Kenneth Matimaire – MUTARE –The mere mention of the Tonga tribe brings its marijuana smoking tradition to mind.

Mokoomba destined for greater heights

Mokoomba destined for greater heights

Its extraordinary water pipes made from the bulb of the calabash fruit, which were used to smoke dagga attracted international attention.

Many were amazed to note that Tonga women are traditionally allowed to smoke. During the colonial era, they were the only tribe permitted to legally continue their dagga smoking culture.

However, little did many expected music to be imbedded in the rich history of one of Zimbabwe’s minority ethnic groups.

The emergence of afro-fusion music band – Mokoomba will have a significant bearing on the tribe’s history.

The young and talented band has been making waves overseas. It is set to take the global music scene by storm following the international release of their second star-studded album titled “Rising Tide.”

Mokoomba band manager and First Floor Gallery Harare events director  Marcus Gora

Mokoomba band manager and First Floor Gallery Harare events director Marcus Gora

The 12 track album was composed in Tonga, Luvale, Nyanja, Mbunda and Chokwe to familiarize the rest of the country with some of the minority dialects.

It was produced by Ivorian Manou Gallo under the artistic direction of Poney Gross for Zig Zag World Belgium.

“Rising Tide” features artists from Zimbabwe and other countries as diverse as Belgium, Denmark, Guneia, India, Israel, Ivory Coast, France and Swedenon vocals and instruments to give it a classical touch.

It is set to mark the band’s baby steps into the international hall of fame.

Mokoomba’s band manager Marcus Gora said the album celebrates the country’s cultural richness.

“Rising Tide is not just about Mokoomba, growing from strength to strength. It is also about the importance and elevation of pride in Zimbabwe and its cultural richness.

“While all the songs are musically engaging and exciting, they also carry with them messages of traditional wisdom and stories of life in Zimbabwe today,” said Gora.

The album was first launched in Harare on April 20 followed by the official international and online release in Belgium ten days later.

In this regard, Gora said, “This is the first professional international release for the band.”

“Having the advantage of an important internationally recognized producer like Manou Gallo to support and develop the project, has really taken the band to a new level.

“The band’s material has always been very strong and now it can be put across as a first class international standard production. Judging by the critical feedback from all over the world, the CD is the boot that will kick-start Mokoomba’s journey to stardom,” he added.

“Rising Tide” also pays tribute to the late talented young drummer Tatenda “Sticks” Kanjato one of the guest artists on the album.

Meanwhile, Mokoomba is on a four-month tour of seven European countries; Hungary, Germany, Serbia and Montenegro, Netherlands, Russia, Austria and Belgium.

The tour will also be used to market the new album.

It is against this backdrop that the dread-locked band manager said “Rising Tide is a clear example that Zimbabwean musicians can reach global audiences.”

In a different story, First Floor Gallery Harare ran a visual art exhibition titled “Vasikana Vedu” during the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) from May 2 to 6 May designed to showcase some of the strongest young female artists.

“Vasikana Vedu” brought together five different artists.

The exhibition showcased works of Sabina Mutsvati, who produced an amazing installation and performance which presented models and poets cladded in unique dresses made from female condoms and newspapers.

There was also Mavis Tauzeni whose new works incorporated paintings and objects reflecting her spirituality followed by Anne Mutema, whose works in mixed media and found objects were a comment on societal institutions like marriage.

Wrapping up the exhibition was Chido Nyabinde-Nyatsuro a print-maker with thought provoking abstract portraits and Varaidzo Gwede a sculptor working with metal, stone and wood to depict African beauty.

The gallery events director Marcus Gora said, “The exhibition really succeeded in changing the way people see women artists and shows what an important part of contemporary art in Zimbabwe they represent.”