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Homegrown Plus: Contemporary traditional music from Zimbabwe with Mokoomba

Six men on stage. In the front row, left to right, a guitarist with electric guitar, a singer singing into a microphone, and a bassist plays electric bass while singing into a microphone. In the back row, left to right, a drummer, standing, plays congas. In the center, a seated drummer plays a small drum kit. On the right, a man is seated behind an amplifier with equipment on top of it; it cannot be seen what he is doing.

Mokoomba performs during a Homegrown Concert Series event, April 15, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller.

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with Mokoomba, a six-piece band that hails from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Band members Mathias Muzaza, Trustworth Samende, Abundance Mutori, Donald Moyo, Ndaba Coster Moyo, and Miti Mugande grew up together in Chinotimba Township, Victoria Falls. While they share similar cultural influences from this region, they all bring parts of their own ethnic backgrounds into the mixture that is Mokoomba.

Three men perform on stage. On the left is a guitarist with an electric guitar. Center is a singer singing into a microphone. Right is a bass player with electric bass.

Mokoomba performs during a Homegrown Concert Series event, April 15, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Mokoomba performances celebrate the diversity of Zimbabwean musical and cultural traditions. At the Library of Congress, the band presented their mellower more acoustic set, but they also have a high energy electric set that they often bring to festivals and club stages. Across both concert formats, though, the band describes their music traditional music mixed with local, regional and international influences.

Mokoomba performs during a Homegrown Concert Series event, April 15, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Facing the challenges of social division in Zimbabwe, Mokoomba strive to perform music that brings diverse peoples together. While they began by seeking to please local audiences, their music is now international and the band has performed in over 40 countries. Their corner of Zimbabwe borders Zambia, Botswana, and a touch of Namibia, with Malawi not far. The tribal groups who long populated this region prior to European colonization include the Tonga, Luvalle, and Njanja tribes, and others have come to live in this area include the Ndebele. Mokoomba band members have roots in these tribal groups. Victoria Falls is both the name of a town and the name of a spectacular waterfall on the great Zambesi River. The band members chose the name Mokoomba, a Tonga word that signifies great respect for the river.

Mokoomba performs during a Homegrown Concert Series event, April 15, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller.

In the first player, watch the concert.  Then scroll down for the oral history!

In the oral history, I spoke with the band members about their individual experiences learning to play music, and the many influences that have filtered into their art. We also discussed language, as the band writes and sings using several languages, including Tonga, Shona, Luvala, Ndebele, and English.

You can find both of these videos with more bibliographic information on the Library of Congress website, with the concert here at this link and the oral history at this link.

Read more about Mokoomba at their website.

The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress.  For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.

 

 

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