Optimism, Hope Dominate Mokoomba’s Message

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


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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