Mookomba is a freshly ground music group from Zimbabwe, currently touring Europe promoting their latest effort, Rising Tide.This group of six energetic young men, is quickly becoming a force to reckon with on the international music scene, having already made waves in their homeland.
Banning Eyre from Afripop Woldwide reviewed their album, stating: “Mokoomba is quite simply the most impressive band Zimbabwe has produced in recent memory…”! Songline Magazine‘ a U.K publication is hailing them as the ‘New hotshots of funkiness’.This album has been well received, judging from the out-pour of glowing reviews from different quarters.
They are part of ‘The New African Sound’ aptly described by African Unsigned -a young generation of African artistes with authentic sounds.Their tonga rhythms are highly intoxicating, captivating, and reminiscent of an era when they did this, to say the least. Their track Messe Messe is what caught my attention. One word, enthralling. You should see their live performances, ai ai ai!!
What are you waiting for? Click on for more juice with an exclusive from the bass guitarist, Abundance Mutori.
54interviews: What does the name Mokoomba mean?
AM:The word Mokoomba is a concept. It signifies the Zambezi River as the vibrant source of life for the Tonga people and our culture as our provider of food, water and recreation.
54interviews: There are six members in the band, how did you guys connect? What is the role of each member of the group?
AM: All of the six band members come from Victoria Falls and Binga in Zimbabwe: Mathias Muzaza is lead vocalist, Abundance Mutori the bass guitarist, Trustworth Samende the lead guitarist, Coster Moyo the drummer, Donald Moyo the keyboardist and Miti Mugande the percussion player.
AM: We all live in the same neighborhood in Victoria Falls and have known each other since school days. We formed the band in 2007 and in 2008, we learnt of a great contest for young up-coming musicians in called Music Crossroads Southern Africa that we entered. We were lucky to win in Zimbabwe and went on to compete regionally with the best bands of other Southern African countries (Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique). We came first there also. The grand prize was a European tour, an opportunity to record our first six track album Kweseka (Drifting Ahead) as well as several intensive workshops with professional coaches led by Zig Zag World’s Poney Gross, to prepare us for the tour.This was the first big stepping-stone for the band.
54interviews: What would you categorize your music’s genre as being?
AM: We call our music Afro-Fusion. We fuse our Tonga beats with funk, reggae, Latin touches and pop influence, blended in with a distinctive Mokoomba groove and lyrical content. Mathias Muzaza’s unique vocal talent is another key element. It is unmistakable; it comes from the depth of our spiritual tradition and touches deeply the soul of audiences all over.
54interviews: Oliver Mtukudzi is the godfather of the Zimbabwe music scene, but you guys have come through with so much gusto and fervor, with your captivating Tonga rhythms, seeming as if ready to take over the reigning mantle from him.(my opinion) How has the reception been in Zimbabwe?
AM: We do not see ourselves as taking over Oliver’s crown as such. Oliver is a legend of an older generation and we have a lot of respect for his achievements. I think our aim is to show how rich and diverse Zimbabwean cultural traditions are beyond the familiar mbira, chimurenga and jit rhythms and to expand audiences and tastes for contemporary Zimbabwean music. Initially, the fact that we don’t sing in Shona language (the majority language) was a surprise to audiences, but over the past couple of years we have been gaining ground rapidly. We have been fortunate to have support from our peers, the local press as well as radio and television. This has been followed up with invitations to take part in major concerts and festivals in different parts of the country. Home base support is very important for us because that is the foundation for our creativity so we are very happy and hope to keep it growing.
54interviews: Messe Messe, the track featuring DJ Gregor Salto produced by Africa Unsigned for the Stand Up Take Action –End Poverty Campaign 2009” was what got my attention initially. What does it mean (message)?
AM: ” Messe Messe” means “Everyone”. It is a simple message – a call for action for people to stand as one in the fight against poverty. Together we are strong.
54interviews: Rising Tide is the name of your latest album, what is the inspiration behind the title?
AM: The title of our new album “Rising Tide” shows the evolution of the band over the years. We started doing music together and it best describes the growth of the band physically, mentally and above all musically. The title also captures how we are becoming stronger, our reach is becoming wider and our confidence about engaging wider and wider audiences is also rising. Thanks to Celine Le Provost, our manger’s assistant for coining this title J.
54interviews: The album is linguistically diverse as there are multiple languages represented throughout your album such as “Chokwe” from Angola, “Lubale” from Zambia. This of course, makes your sounds the more appealing outside of Zim borders. How are you guys able to sing so fluidly in other languages? Has this fluidity translated to recognition in the countries that these languages originate?
Editors Note: Njoka was produced in Harare in April 2012 and realized by Marcus Gora
AM: The town of Victoria Falls is located on the border with Botswana, Namibia and Zambia also very close to Angola. All the people in this region are raised to understand and speak all of the regional languages because we interact with everyone there. Mathias’ parents for example come from Zambia and Angola increasing his ability to write songs in those languages. This is part of our culture and whether we sing in Lubale, Tonga, Chokwe, and Ndebele we are bringing the traditions and beauty of the languages and the cultures into the music. Our ability to communicate is no doubt a huge advantage when we play in regional festivals or seek airplay. However, we believe that the power of the music carries us further than the language because we have seen how well audiences in Europe respond to our music even without knowledge of any of our languages and the same is true in other parts of the world.
54interviews: Manou Gallo produced your latest album. She is the production force behind such names as Kiyi M’Bock and Zap Mama. How did you guys link up with her?
AM: We first met Manou Gallo in 2008, the time we won the Music Crossroads Southern Africa competition in Malawi. She really loved our music and we developed a warm relationship from then onwards. In 2010, we did a main-stage collaboration with Manou as part of the Harare International Festival of the Arts. So, when we started working on our new CD with Zig Zag World, Poney suggested Manou Gallo as producer and of course we said yes! For us it was a great opportunity to work with such a great musician with a lot of ideas and experience. She understands our music very well and she did an amazing job!!!
54interviews: Since May, the band has been on a European tour promoting the album, gracing stages in Russia, Finland, Austria etc. How has the reception been in these countries? Where do you get the most extreme love, and shrieks from girls?
AM: We had concerts in nine different countries namely Belgium, Holland, Germany, Serbia, Hungary, Macedonia, Austria, Russia and Finland during our last tour. I am happy to say that in all theses countries we were given a warm reception, meeting friendly people and had wonderful audiences for all our performances. So far however, we have had (extreme love and shrieks from girls) in Buryatia in Russia, where we played at the Voice of the Nomads Festival in Ulan-Ude, we would love to return there soon J!!
54interviews: You guys have generated a lot of buzz in the European performance circuit, having had three successful tours. What do you attribute to this success? How have you guys been able to sustain this momentum?
AM: I would say our success has been largely due to the uniqueness of our music, our high-energy stage performance, the band’s cohesion and unity and the dedication and skill of our international management company Zig Zag World, always working to expand and develop our audiences across all parts of Europe. There are not many bands from Southern Africa touring Europe so we are honored when a lot of people tell us that we giving a breath of fresh air to African music. The successful European tours have been an eye opener for us as a band and have helped us increase our confidence and musicianship; these are assets that will help us sustain the momentum.
Editors Note: Live video of the song Nimukonda recorded in July 2012 at the Pole Pole Festival in Belgium :
54interviews: The group is currently managed by Zig Zag World, whose roster of clients is legendary, to include Guinean Djembe Master Mamady Keita among other notable names. Give us a brief rundown of how this client/management relationship came to be.
AM: We first met Poney Gross in 2008 when we won Music Crossroads Competition in Malawi. We worked with him as coach and trainer and recorded our first CD inside the Music Crossroads program. This gave us time to get to know and appreciate each other and the management relationship became a natural extension of our collaborations. Poney believes in us and he loves our music, which is very important for us.
We know through Poney that Mamady Keita is a big fan of Mokoomba. Although, we have not had the chance to meet him directly as yet we are sure this will happen soon! Thanks to Mamady, one of his band members, djembefola Babara Bangoura, played djembe on Rising Tide, which is wonderful.
54interviews: Your album, Rising Tide has gotten rave reviews, from all quarters imaginable. Have you been nominated for any local/regional (African), or international music awards?
AM: Yes, it has been amazing to see the fantastic reviews we got for the CD, we could not hope for better! Although we have not received any accolades yet, we feel the biggest recognition we have gotten so far is to be selected to showcase as part of Moshito 2012 in South Africa and WOMEX 2012 in Greece, given the competition. We just want to keep working hard; the main satisfaction for us is our work on stage and audience support.
54interviews: The artwork cover for your CD is dope, who is responsible for that creation?
AM: The artwork for the album is a team effort. Marcus Gora, our manager in Africa, who wanted to capture the personality of each musician, took the photos for the cover and Spanish graphic designer Luis Umbria put together a collage and the colors to reflect the title and the spirit of the album. Luis was selected by Poney for his previous work with another Zig Zag World artist: Ialma.
54interviews: One of the top billed arts festivals in Zimbabwe, HIFA is an important platform for Zimbabwe’s artistes, in which you guys have appeared on for several performances. Aside, from the exposure, what else have you guys gained from being a part of this annual, six day arts program?
AM: HIFA is the biggest international festival in Zimbabwe. Taking part has given us confidence that we have the standard to perform at the highest level and also gave us an opportunity to create exciting new collaborations on stage. In 2012, we developed a unique performance with Gregor Salto, which became the toast of the festival and showed local audiences how far local music can go.
54interviews: When can we expect you in the U.S.?
AM: Of course, for us the U.S. is a very important territory and it is a priority for our future tours. We know that Zimbabwean music is well appreciated there. We have also received fantastic reviews about our CD in important music blogs like Afropop Worldwide (Banning Eyre) and several radio stations like First World Music (Akena. Hammagaadji), Africa Mix (Emmanuel Nado), Bonjour Africa (Bouna Ndiaye) and KAOS-fm (Scott Stevens) are already playing our songs and supporting our music. Our management is working hard to organize a tour for late 2013, but it is certain by 2014 we would have made it! In the mean time, enjoy the music video for our song titled Njoka J that gives you a window into our capital city of Harare today.
54interviews: Parting shot. Anything else you would like your fans to know?
AM: Mokoomba is not just a band; it is an experience and a roller coaster ride for us and for audiences. We love what we do and we take everyone with us. Once you have had the Mokoomba experience, you won’t want to do without it! So Get Ready!
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