Passport Series: Mokoomba

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Mokoomba is one of Africa’s most exciting young bands, dazzling audiences worldwide with their knockout live shows and potent blend of traditional Tonga, Luvale, & Nyanja sounds laced with international styles from soukous to soul.

Mokoomba is based in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The band’s six members, Mathias Muzaza (lead vocals), Ndaba Coster Moyo (drums, backing vocals), Trustworth Samende (lead guitar, backing vocals), Donald Moyo, (keyboards, backing vocals), Miti Mugande, (percussion & backing vocals) and Abundance Mutori (bass, backing vocals) grew up as friends in the Chinotimba township.

Living in a border city that attracts tourists from all over the world gave Mokoomba’s music an international perspective from the beginning, incorporating everything from reggae to afropop to soul alongside their own local musical traditions.

The group’s members began playing together as teenagers in 2001, and Mokoomba was officially formed in 2008. Their first major success came that same year, when they won the Music Crossroads Inter-Regional Festival Competition in Malawi.

In 2009 Mokoomba recorded its first album, Kweseka — Drifting Ahead, which generated a local hit “Messe Messe”, and the group’s first European tour. Mokoomba recorded a second EP, Umvundla, in 2011. But their big break came in 2012, when the band released Rising Tide produced by pioneering Ivoirian bassist Manou Gallo (Zap Mama) for the Belgian label ZigZag World.

The success of Rising Tide led Mokoomba to tour over 40 countries worldwide, including performances at Denmark’s Roskilde festival, the UK’s WOMAD festival, Belgium’s Couleur Cafe´ festival, Morocco’s annual Gnawa World Music festival and New Orleans’ storied Jazz and Heritage Festival.

In February 2017 Mokoomba released its self-produced third album Luyando on Germany’s OutHere label, a stripped down, mostly acoustic album that took their sound in a whole new direction, and took critics by storm.

Since then, Mokoomba has become one of Zimbabwe’s most popular bands, playing with such icons as Hugh Masekela, Baba Maal and the Talking Head’s Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz. They’ve rocked legendary rooms and stages worldwide, from NYC’s Apollo Theater, and The Kennedy Center is Washington, D.C., to London’s 100 Club and Amsterdam’s Melkweg, to WOMEX and SXSW, sealing their reputation as one of Africa’s best young live bands.

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