Optimism, Hope Dominate Mokoomba’s Message

The band uses traditional African music and modern jazz/reggae influences to share Zimbabwe’s rich inner life.


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Photo by Eric van Nieuwland

The band Mokoomba takes its name from word in the Tonga language of Zimbabwe that doesn’t translate into English but references a deep connectedness and respect felt by people in the region toward the Zambezi River and its role as a nurturing force in Zimbabwe’s life.

The name is appropriate for a band that draws on both traditional African music and modern jazz/reggae influences to tell the story of Zimbabwe’s rich inner life. Mokoomba’s energetic rythyms and high-life style vocals — effortlessly code switching between English and traditional Bantu languages including Tonga, Nyanja, Ndebele, and Shona — belie more serious social messages. Mokoomba’s music addresses head-on the hardships faced by Zimbabwe, from urgent modern crises like the AIDS epidemic to more intangible woes like the gradual loss of Africa’s unique cultures in a time of global homogenization.

But through it all, band members Mathias Muzaza, Trustworth Samende, Abundance Mutori, Donald Moyo, Ndaba Coster Moyo, and Miti Mugande focus on a message of hope and a pure optimism that always insists that a better tomorrow is possible. The band’s newest album is 2017’s Luyando, a rougher, more acoustic beat that nevertheless maintains the same positive core.

Friday, April 19, 8 p.m. $20 in advance, $24 at the door, Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, 202 Addison St., Berkeley, TheFreight.org.

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