Mokoomba conquers world

HARARE - Zimbabwe's six-member boy band, Mokoomba, believes that theirs is a new sound that the world has been waiting for.

Having toured the world – performing at various prestigious festivals and venues – the band this year celebrates 10 years since joining the music circuit and they have a lot to drink a toast to.

A performance at the Music Crossroads Inter-Regional Festival in Lilongwe, Malawi in 2008 won them a European tour and they recorded their first album Kweseka in 2009. 

Since then, the world has opened up to the group leading to tours in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, including performances at the Couleur Cafe, Gnaoua World Music Festival, Paleo Festival, Roskilde Festival, Sziget Festival, WOMAD festival, Gwanju World Music Festival in South Korea, and the Africa Now!festival at The Apollo Theater in New York City.

The group’s major highlights include winning the Songlines Awards Best Newcomers 2013; sharing the stage with Senegalese legend Baba Maal at the HIFA closing concert in Harare; playing at the Apollo Theatre in New York in 2016; performing at Lollapalooza DE in Berlin this past September opening for the Weekend (Canada); playing as house band for Angelique Kidjo at the recent Songlines Music Awards and being inducted into the Afropop Hall of Fame alongside greats like King Sunny Ade, Harry Belafonte, Oliver Mtukudzi, Thomas Mapfumo, Mahotella Queens, Dorothy Masuku and Angelique Kidjo to mention a few.

Abundance Mutori, the bass player and spokesperson of Mokoomba said the band has managed to penetrate the overseas music industry because of their music’s style which has not been heard for quite a long time. 

The band sings mainly in three languages; Tonga, Nyanja and Lubale. 

“Apart from these languages, we are also incorporating Shona and Ndebele languages. Our music is a fusion of different types of grooves borrowed from our culture. It talks about HIV/Aids; covers issues that affect young people, women and men. We also sing songs of the African rain and how fond we are of our traditional culture,” said Mutori.

He believes the resort town of Victoria Falls – their home town which borders Zambia – has been an influence to their music brand.

“We are fortunate that we border other countries from which we have learnt their languages, cultures and we fuse all elements into a unique vibe. A number of tourists from all over the world converge in Victoria Falls, hence we can speak several other languages and we always learn from their diverse cultures as well,” said Mutori.

Mokoomba is made of up of six band members namely Mathias Muzaza (lead vocals and traditional drums); Trustworth Samende (acoustic guitar), Mutori; Donald Moyo (cajon and percussion); Miti Mugande (percussion) and Ndaba Coster Moyo (Calabash and percussion).

They all grew up in the same neighbourhood, and knew each other before they even started music.

They also went to the same schools, first at Chinotimba Primary School then Mosi-Oa-Tunya High School where they started playing music together in 2002.

The band’s worldwide success is well appreciated in their hometown, where the community there is proud of their achievements. 

Through music, they have also succeeded in raising the status of the resort town.

While Mokoomba seems more popular overseas than in their homeland of Zimbabwe, Mutori attributes this to the way the group entered the world of music. 

“We started our music career by touring the world a lot that is why we are appreciated there more, but that success has made the audience back home realise how good we are and they have warmed to our music,” he said.

Their exposure, internationally, has also helped the group change its attitude towards music as a business. 

“We have learnt a lot from travelling around the world and this has changed the way we view the music business. Through touring, we have seen how the music scene is always changing and this has influenced us into creating music that suits modern day,” Mutori told the Daily News on Sunday.

Touring overseas has also enriched the band and helped it grow as they move with technological changes within the world music industry through their interactions with other established musicians, music business people and producers.

To date the band has managed to purchase its own set of music equipment, something they had never dreamt of.

“Apart from the exposure and experience we get from these international tours, we have also made some money, funds which we have used to upgrade the band, hence buying some music instruments and other stage equipment,” he said.

And what is unique with their music which has propelled them to such dizzy heights? 

Mutori opines that the biggest element underpinning their success is the voice of their lead singer, Muzaza, combined with the fusion of music beats borrowed from their culture.

He summarises this unique combination as having produced music that people haven’t heard, and driving their audiences into wanting to know more about their style.

Mutori also believes the band has been fortunate in that it grew up at a time technology is fast catching up with youngsters in Zimbabwe.

“As young musicians, we had problems when we started because we also didn’t have any money to finance our music projects, but through social media we managed to market ourselves throughout the world. Even today, we use social media platforms to reach all corners – I would say we are fortunate unlike musicians from other generations that did not have such forums,” he said.

While not on tour, back home, Mokoomba conducts a number of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.

They conduct workshops meant to impart life skills acquired from their worldwide travels to youths, targeting schools and unemployed youths.

As part of their CSR initiatives, they have donated their entire old music instrument kit to the youths.

The band’s album releases

Mokoomba sees its star shinning again with the release of its third 10-track album titled Luyando released in 2017 whose context means ‘mother’s love’ in the Tonga language.

The band said the name of their last released album was inspired mostly by the love mothers have for their children.

Muzaza is the lead singer and main composer on Luyando while the arrangement and musicality are a collaborative effort by the whole band. 

The production was done by Mokoomba and Germany-based Outhere Records.

Band manager Marcus Gora said the album has a new approach and feel. 

“It is a new product that is coming with a new show as we have removed drums and keyboards. In removing these instruments, we have stripped down the sound, hence less noise with more melody,” said Gora. “This new show has a different live setting and is popular in most city venues that we have performed”.

The band produced the new album on its own and Outhere Records is distributing it worldwide. 

While there isn’t a market for records or CDs in Zimbabwe because of piracy, they still believe there is a big market for these products overseas hence we released the album on CD, vinyl and cassette formats mainly for the international markets.

“After travelling a lot overseas, we have come to understand how the music industry functions and what is happening technologically, so we will sell it on various online platforms,” said Gora.

The songs on the album – Luyando, Muzwile, Mabemba, Kumukanda, Nyaradzo, Vimbe, Kambowa, Mokole, Kulindiswe and Njawane – are sung in Tonga, Luvale, Nyanja and Shona languages and have a lot of rhythms and songs borrowed from traditional music.

The band has far released two other albums – Kweseka (2009) and Rising Tide (2012).

Gora believes the world has been waiting for a new sound, something different as it had already seen American Hip-Hop and the Jamaican reggae among other popular genres. 

“From Zimbabwe the world has already seen the Bhundu Boys, Stella Chiweshe, Thomas Mapfumo, the late Chiwoniso Maraire and Andy Brown. But now it had been waiting for something new and unique from Zimbabwe and Mokoomba has brought that unique sound. 

“A new generation of musicians in Zimbabwe has to produce a fresh sound that can capture the world’s imagination,” he said.

Gora said the feedback they get from audiences while on tour has been encouraging. 

“The audience say they appreciate our music, they say the guys are real and true to themselves. They say the band loves what it does, so that energy translates to them (audience).

“The audience is also touched by our different songs and more often they want to know more about our culture and our country Zimbabwe. I sometimes feel bad because I think we should be carrying leaflets with information on Zimbabwe to give our fans,” he said.

To show how appreciative audiences are they buy the band’s CDs. 

“At major festivals we sell between 40 and 50 CDs which is a lot. If we embark on a three week tour we carry 500 CDs and they all sell out,” said Gora, adding that in future the band plans to work on collaborations with heritage artistes like Zimbabwean mbira singer Stella Chiweshe. 

“Although there are still a few of these heritage artistes left in Zimbabwe it would be great to capture some of them and introduce them to our audience. We will be talking to such great artistes for future collaborations because this will also be a way to introduce them to young audiences who never had the chance to appreciate their art,” said Gora, who has been the band’s manager for over five years.

“The toughest thing is when we have long tours, say three to four months, and then there is a toll on the band members because we are travelling long distances in between venues and it is a bit tiring.

“The other challenge has been of diet in that different countries have their own kind of foods. The type of meat in Zimbabwe may not be same as in other countries, so we encounter challenges,” he added.

While they are getting more adapt to dealing with rigorous touring and always ready to deal with the different weather conditions in the respective countries, they miss home and their families. 

Comments (2)

I'm glad you finally have an article in these guys. Mokoomba are a real phenomenon. Just a spectacular group. So proud of these guys.

Moe Syszlack - 13 January 2019

keep up the good work guys the sky is not the limit so keep on soaring

charera - 16 January 2019

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