Abundance, we're just getting to know Mokoomba, in part through your new album, ‘Rising Tide', but in fact you guys have been at it for some years already. How did you first get together?
Abundance Mutori (bass & backing vocals): "We all already knew each other from when we were still kids, playing together in our village. Growing up we started experimenting with playing music, but it was only when we heard about the Music Crossroads International Festival that things got really serious."
Is it easy to make a living as a musician in Zimbabwe?
Abundance Mutori: "It's not that easy, really, and I'd even go as far as to say that it's quite difficult. We started playing together in church and school, so they provided us with instruments. Winning the competition at Music Crossroads was also a great leap forward for us."
Most of the musicians in Mokoomba are members of the Tonga tribe.
Abundance Mutori: "Yeah, the Tonga people live in the Victoria Falls area of Zimbabwe and form only a small minority in the country. Our language is only spoken in Victoria Falls and Binga. We made a conscious choice to sing in our own language because we wanted the rest of Zimbabwe and even the rest of the world to know we are proud of our rich Tonga heritage."
Asked about Zimbabwean music, most people will probably think of the mbira, an instrument that's nowhere to be found in Mokoomba's music; a conscious choice?
Abundance Mutori: "We're Tonga, so we decided to focus on our own traditional instruments, like the drums, called ngoma mbwita, and horns we use. This way people can discover Zimbabwean music is about much more than just the mbira."
That being said, the album is also loaded with influences from other genres, ranging from funk to salsa. What did you grow up listening to?
Abundance Mutori: "A whole variation of styles, to be honest; personally I listened to a lot of West-African artists, people like Youssou N'dour and Salif Keita, but also western music like the pop of Michael Jackson, for example. When we started the band, we really wanted to fuse all our personal influences into one groove, so that's why when you listen to the album you will hear traditional Tonga influences mixed with styles as varied as funk, reggae and even soukous. We really wanted our music to appeal to as broad an audience as possible."
What are your songs about?
Abundance Mutori: "We mostly drew on traditional Tonga songs, so most of them are songs of celebration, used to celebrate a plentiful harvest or the coming of the rain season. Apart from that, we just sing about life in general."
What does the Mokoomba band name mean exactly?
Abundance Mutori: "The word "mokoomba" refers to the life force which is the Zambezi River, because it's the river that provides the Tonga people with food, water and life."
For 'Rising Tide' you worked with Manou Gallo; how did that collaboration come about?
Abundance Mutori: "We were both signed by ZigZag World. Manou has a great sense of music and it was great to have her on board as a producer and artistic director."
Poney Gross (manager): "Manou helped to give the album a more international flavor. It was also her idea to add the horn section, for example, which suited Mokoomba's sound perfectly."
We can't really pass by the fact that not a lot of positive news has been coming out of Zimbabwe the past few decades. Do you get asked about the political situation in your homeland often?
Abundance Mutori: "We do, yes, but it's important that people know the situation has vastly improved the last few years. Even the Zimbabwean music industry is slowly picking up again. In the region where we lived - we moved to the capital of Harare quite recently - things always stayed peaceful; we heard about what was happening in the rest of the country but, as Victoria Falls has always been a touristic area, the troubles never really reached us."