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Zimbabwe’s celebrated young band, Mokoomba return to The Apex on 24 October. With their enthusiastic mix of pan-African styles and Tonga rhythms, Mokoomba have propelled themselves into the vanguard of fresh new talent emerging from Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe was once the powerhouse of African popular music, with artists such as Bhundu Boys and Black Umfolosi. Now, following in their footsteps, Mokoomba have been hailed as the most impressive band the country has produced in recent memory. The electrifying intensity of lead singer Mathias Muzaza and the band of energetic young musicians bring a rollercoaster ride of raw energy and youthful passion in contagiously joyful performances.
Songlines Magazines have declared them to be “the new hotshots of Pan-African funkiness”, while fRoots Magazine likens Muzaza’s outstanding vocals to Kanda Bongo Man and Baaba Maal.
Mokoomba hail from a small village on the Zambezi River in the Victoria Falls region, named after the spectacular waterfall and home to the Tonga-speaking minority. The members of Mokoomba started playing music as teenagers with the help of a local bandleader, the late Alfred Mijimba, who gave the boys experience by hiring them to play local concerts with his band. Mijimba was a respected local musician, and the members of Mokoomba gained substantial experience under his direction.
The Zambesi River touches 5 African countries and visitors from all around the world come to see Victoria Falls. Living in a melting pot of diverse cultures gave Mokoomba’s music an international perspective from the beginning. Marcus Gora explained, “when you were growing up there, you couldn’t escape different cultures, languages and musical influences. There was music from the local Tonga tradition, Congolese rumba and soukous, funk, pop from the Beatles, and even country.” This helps to explain their fresh and original music, using Tonga rhythms and offsetting them with Congolese grooves with dashes of Rap, Ska and Latin.
In 2009 Mokoomba recorded their first album, ‘Kweseka – Drifting Ahead’, which generated a local hit ‘Messe Messe’, and the group’s first European tour, a second EP, ‘Umvundla’ followed in 2011. But their big break came in 2012, when the band released ‘Rising Tide’ which intrigued and surprised music critics across the globe, featuring in 2012 Best of lists in the likes of The Guardian and fRoots and winning Songlines Magazine’s Best Newcomer Award. The success of Rising Tide led Mokoomba to tour over 40 countries worldwide, including performances at WOMAD festival, Denmark’s Roskilde festival and Morocco’s Gnawa festival.
Mokoomba have become one of Zimbabwe’s most popular bands, playing with such icons as Hugh Masekela and Baba Maal at Zimbabwe’s annual Harare International Festival of the Arts.
Their new album, ‘Luyando’ is a stripped down, mostly acoustic affair; lyrical and beautifully breezy, it is a spiritual journey into the heart of Zimbabwe. Digging even deeper into their heritage, Mokoomba take us into the disappearing world of Tonga and Luvale culture and tradition. While widely accessible and engaging, their songs are also deeply responsive to today’s Zimbabwe. This album is a quest for the wisdom of tradition and history, as well as insight and solace amid the contemporary crisis.
Mokoomba play the Apex on Wednesday 24 October at 8pm. Tickets are £18, with £5 tickets for those aged under 25. Contact The Apex Box Office on 01284 758000 or visit www.theapex.co.uk for more information or to book.