The Herald (Harare)

20 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Mokoomba Thrills Crowd

Mokoomba came back to a rousing welcome following a six-month-long tour of Europe and proved once more that language is no barrier when it comes to music.

The Tonga-speaking Afro-fusion group thrilled the cosmopolitan crowd that braved a heavy downpour in the late afternoon to witness the first edition of the Music

Crossroads Showcase Mission hosted by Alliance Francaise on Saturday night.

The Showcase Mission brought together on one stage four products of the talent search competition -- Mokoomba, Gwarimba, Savannah Afros and Club Shanga -- who each showed why they had all made it to the top in their respective editions of the Music Crossroads Zimbabwe finals.

2008 Music Crossroads winners Mokoomba were performing for the first time in Harare after playing to packed audiences abroad had the crowd on the dance floor with their very first song.

The group, who had the rare distinction of appearing on BBC2's flagship show, "Late With Jools Holland", has done its fair share of high-profile collaborations, notably with Dutch DJ Gregor Salto at this year's edition of Hifa.

Combining modern and traditional instruments with a rich blend of rhythms, Mokoomba has succeeded in elevating traditional Tonga music to unprecedented levels.

A remarkable feat indeed in a country in which sungura, dendera, gospel music and mbira rule the roost.

Saturday's act comprised new and old songs and they spiced their act by giving their local fans a taste of their latest offering "Rising Tide" which features plug tracks such as "Masangango", "Mangongo", "Mwile", "Misodzi", "Yombe" and "Nimukonda".

On a scale of one to 10 Mokoomba get 8,5 for Saturday's show.

Mufakose-based group Gwarimba kicked off the fiesta with a polished performance that included a catalogue of their well-known songs like "Makuve", "Africa", "Shuramurove", "Ndoenda" and "Come Come", all taken from their debut album, "BhoBhoBho" released in 2010, much to the delight of the crowd.

Gwarimba, who occasionally sound like Thomas Mapfumo, demonstrated their versatility with a reggae remix of Phil Collins' classic "Another Day In Paradise", done by Jamaican musician Duanne Stephenson.

About halfway through the showcase, flashes of lightning started criss-crossing the sky and the rain which had held off during the early evening began falling down playing havoc with the power supply.

But this did not dampen a sterling performance by Marondera-based Club Shanga, added their

own thunder to the lightning with a top-drawer performance anchored by tracks such as "Hamutigone", "Peta Muswe", "Nherera" and the timeless "Tondobayana".

Special mention must go to the two female dancers from Club Shanga, who left the crowd spellbound with their well-choreographed dance sequences.

But the same cannot be said about their Chitungwiza-based counterparts. Admittedly, Savannah Afros had a bad day in the office.

And judging by their performance on Saturday night, the 2011 Music Crossroads winners still have a lot of homework to do if they are to catch up with Club Shanga and Mokoomba, let alone Gwarimba.

They only managed to jolt the crowd on to the dance floor when they sang the popular Shona nursery rhyme, "Dudu Muduri".

Other tracks such as "Nherera"and one curiously titled "Motherless Child" (another term for orphan) only elicited a muted response from an otherwise subdued audience.

Bulawayo will be the next stop for the Music Crossroads Showcase Mission as it goes around the country's 10 provinces.

Speaking on behalf of Music Crossroads Zimbabwe director Mathias Bangure, co-master of ceremonies Hope Masike explained that the idea of the musical fest was to promote local talent at home before it is exported overseas.

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