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Chicago: Zimbabwe's Mokoomba shares culture and tradition in Park Forest concert

11/03/2018 00:00:00
by Chicago Tribune
US tour ... Mokoomba (above) performs March 16 at Freedom Hall in Park Forest

CHICAGO: Fresh from its debut at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, one of Zimbabwe's leading dance bands heads to the Southland.

In the group's only Chicago-area appearance, Mokoomba performs March 16 at Freedom Hall in Park Forest.

"When we are giving energy out to the audience and to a new crowd who never heard the sound before, you see people enjoy the sound and love it," said bassist and backing vocalist Abundance Mutori via phone after arriving in Michigan for a residency at the Zimbabwe Cultural Centre of Detroit.

"We are doing a mix of pan-African sound together with traditional sounds from Zimbabwe. We make a fusion in our music, which is more interesting. It's going to be a lovely show."

Mokoomba is touring in support of its self-produced third album, "Luyando," which means "mother's love" in Tonga. The 2017 release via Germany's Outhere Records takes the band's sound in a different direction.

"'Luyando' is stripped-down and different from the show we're going to be doing. In the Afro-fusion show we have all the instruments compared to the new album, which is more acoustic. We are playing as a full band to be a high-energy show," Mutori said.

Friends who grew up in Victoria Falls comprise Mokoomba, which combines Tonga and Luvale traditional rhythms fused with funk, ska and soukous. The late Alfred Mijimba, a local bandleader, gave the young musicians experience by hiring them to play local concerts with his band.

The other five members of Mokoomba are Mathias Muzaza (lead vocals), Trustworth Samende (lead guitar, backing vocals), Donald Moyo (keyboards, backing vocals), Ndaba Coster Moyo (drums, backing vocals) and Miti Mugande (percussion, backing vocals).

"When we started we wanted to bring our style of music all over the world. People receiving this style of our music has been great. Also, growing an audience around the world has been great," Mutori said.

With appearances in Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania, Mokoomba has toured more than 50 countries around the world and appeared on the English music TV show "Later… with Jools Holland" and at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.


One of Zimbabwe's most popular young bands, Mokoomba has played with Hugh Masekela, Baaba Maal and the Talking Heads' Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz.

"All these years that we've taken our name all over the place, it's been a great journey. We are grateful for all of this," Mutori said.

Mokoomba's accolades include receiving best newcomer at Songlines Music Awards, arts personality of the year at the National Merit Awards and best touring artist at Zimbabwe Music Awards UK all for 2013 and best touring artists at both Zim Achievers Awards and Zimbabwe Music Awards both for 2014.

"My dad played bass guitar and also some other instruments. A lot of stuff is self-taught but I had pointers from family," said Mutori about how he first got started in playing music.

"I love the groove. The bass guitar is a lively instrument for me to keep the group going. This is what I love mostly."

Mokoomba's performance in Park Forest is sponsored by Southland Arts, Municipalities, and Business Alliance and WDCB-FM (90.9).

"It's a different culture — how people are connected to each other, how people are loving and caring and sharing for one another," Mutori said.

"It's also a great thing that we can share with the world how our people are living. I believe it's a good thing that we can share this with all the world."

This article is taken from the Chicago Tribune.

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