Make no mistake, these boys are going to be Big! The six musicians comprising Mathias Muzaza on lead vocals, Trustworth Samende on lead guitar, Abundance Mutori on bass guitar, Donald Moyo on keyboards, Miti Mugande on percussion, and Ndaba Coster Moyo on drums, captivate the crowd, and have the Zimbabwe contingent scratching their heads and saying to each other “we’ve got to get these boys over to Europe,” but little do they know that they have been to Europe and beyond for five consecutive years.
Collectively, they call themselves Mokoomba.
In an exhilarating, visually stimulating two live concert hours on August 29 the emotionally charged sensory explosion of Mokoomba came alive at the Alliance Francaise open air venue in Harare.
Before they came onto the stage we were treated to an opening act which called itself the Kwela Calabash which was hosted by Albert Nyathi, that famous poet. Kwela Calabash gave the audience an hour of mournful, solitary jazz fanfare.
Mokoomba started the show with some soulful ballads. Mathias Muzaza, with his rich mezza-soprano voice which ranged from the lowest note to the highest musically useful pitches, defied weight of expectation on this live performance as he began to thrill the audience with his theatrical imagination and undiminished voice. He went into “Njavane” and “Kumukande” as the crowd warmed up to the band.
He went further into “Kulindisiwe” before the audience left their chairs and began to crowd in front of the stage. Then the heat of the moment began when they belted hit after hit, from “Mwile” to “Nimukonda”. On realising that the crowd had now begun to eat out of their hands, the whole band dropped their instrument, as if to tell the crowd to sit down, and roared into “Nyaradzo” a Shona acapella tune.
They knew that this would resonate with the audience, but the crowed refused to sit down. As if to say, “what the hell?” the band picked up its instruments and together they sang the popular tune “Misozi” showing off their well choreographed gyrations which have become part of the Mokoomba showmanship experience. It was, however, during Mokoomba’s set on the make-shift stage later on that their musical riot came to a head. This Victoria Falls collective were awestruck by the giant crowd as they stormed through their hit “Njoka”, even surprising fans by bringing out Donald Moyo, the keyboards player, to the front to dance with Mathias and Trust to humongous cheers. Their mix of drum and bass beats and liquid Afro-fusion rhythm brought to life with a live band was a deserving booking for the famous stage.
And with so much music that has never been played before in front of this audience, this was always going to be a snapshot. More danceable tunes came one after another from “Masangango”, “Welele Africa” to the closing number, “Ndundule” which got everyone chanting well beyond its final chord. For many it will go down as one of this year’s finest moments, and rightly so.
Mokoomba’s adoring fans were in ecstasy, sometimes to the point where their frenzied dancing styles called for a security guard to restrain them in keeping with the rather formal atmosphere of the night.
It is difficult not to single out Mathias Muzaza from this outfit. Mathias is a very charismatic stage character who is not only gifted with a powerful and rich voice, but can really move on stage leaving one completely awestruck. This energetic, full-of-life singer is really awesome. However, I dare not say any more about him at this moment as I do not want this young man to start growing a big head. This often causes bands to split. Look at How Biggie Tembo ended up leaving the Bhundu Boys and the disasters that followed after. If this were to happen to Mokoomba, that would be a sad day for Zimbabwe. I am not certain how the band full of such talented young men got together, but however they got together, they have the best out of each other. Trust , who has written most of the Mokoomba songs, is also a talented guitarist and dancer while it amazes me to see how Abundance makes those dancing moves while keeping the timing tight on his bass. Donald Moyo is equally gifted as he plays around his mobile and stationary keyboards which he sometimes leaves to show off his dancing techniques. The two percusionists, Costa and Miti add the flavour that is needed to complement a brilliant band like this. The band, simply put, is amazing!
From a technical point of view what Mokoomba does is blinding and the fact that they have combined this with catchy hooks and licks makes it doubly so.
After the show, I had the privilege to ask Colonel Mutemasango, the deputy chief elections officer, who was part of the 300 plus crowd what he thought of the band and this was his reply, “These boys are very good and I think they are going places.” Daves Guzha who was also there had this to say, “That was fantastic! A brilliant night out!”.
Tendai Maziofa commented: “These guys have forced me to get my dancing shoes out, and for the first time this year, I decided to see them again. They are just brilliant!” Hope Masike could not catch her breath after dancing all night to this outfit’s music.
Some will argue why we should treat Mokoomba as superstars when they have never had a hit that we all know in Zimbabwe. As I was listening to this brilliant band, a sudden thought came to mind. It is not because they are not good. The language barrier defeats their crowd-pleasing efforts in Harare. I tried to speak to Mathias in Shona after the gig ended and I could see he was struggling with his Shona. He kept on saying, “Horaiti mudhara, ndazwizwa. Iri bho!”
If they could sing the songs they are singing now in Shona, then they are definitely going to overthrow the giant music stars already in existence here. Although Mokoomba exploit Tonga rhythms and melodies, they are yet to create a Shona fusion which I think should still be mixed with a music rooted in their home reality while still open to the sounds of the rest of Zimbabwe.
I spoke to Marcus Gora, their manager afterwards and made this suggestion. He appreciated it. He promised that in their next recording session they will incorporate this idea. If that happens their latest CD “Rising Tide” which was selling at the venue for $10 a copy will become a thing of the past as Zimbabweans are ready for the next Mokoomba offering. To truly experience the creativity and genius of Mokoomba, you must experience them live. They are indeed a must see!
Please guys, take my advice. I am merely a music bricklayer and not a critic!
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