I first saw Mokoomba giving a taste of their work at the backstage of this year’s WOMAD. They were singing a capella track called Kambowa in Tonga language. But even with such a modest performance, they were already showing something special and unique. The six guys from the Zimbabwean band were relaxed and natural, while singing and engaging with the small audience in a humble and warm way. After the performance, they still mingled around with the press and posed for photographs without showing any discomfort or annoyance.
If they already had conquered us with their natural charm, the enchantment was to be completed later in the night, where on the stage, they simply exploded with their charisma. Within a few seconds of their first song, Mokoomba created a strong engagement with the public. It was not only one, but two or three photographers working on the stage pit who commented about feeling like putting their cameras away and start dancing. We were all certainly more than tapping our feet – we had been taken away by their rhythm.
It is hard to avoid common place sentences here, but their energy is simply contagious! Abundance Mutori (bass) and Trustworth Samende (guitar) had the music exhaling from their pores. Each of their body movements and facial expressions were just promising good strong shots that could visually capture the richness of their sound. When their front man, Mathias Muzaza entered the stage, it became hard to decide who was the most interesting to photograph. Meanwhile, Donald Moyo (keyboard), Costa Ndaba Moyo (drums) and Miti Mugande (percussion) were just shining as much. Their natural performance was making justice to their eclectic afro-fusion sound of salsa, Congalense rumba, Reggae and Tonga influences. As hard as it is to avoid falling into the trap of clichés again, but it was a breath of fresh air from the robotic, synchronized and emotionally disconnected moves of commercial pop bands.
The guys from Mokoomba really enjoy what they do and they truly immerse themselves within the sound they produce. Their power is in their full awareness of the audience, which comes as an irresistible invitation to join their fun.
The band was largely unknown in UK until the release of their album “Rising Tide” in 2012. In April this year they won the Songlines Magazine Newcomer’s award and have played across a number of UK summer festivals, including WOMAD.