Mokoomba: Tusona: Tracings in the Sand review – stirring pan-African sounds flowing from the Zambezi

‘Grounded in the Luvale tradition’: Mokoomba. Photograph: Kundai Taz

Zimbabwean group Mokoomba have made quite an impression since coming to the fore 10 years back, delivering two fine albums, becoming international festival favourites and reclaiming their country’s musical identity. This third album affirms their savvy mix of spirituality and exuberance; more electric than 2017’s semi-acoustic Luyando, more polished than their debut, Rising Tide.

While grounded in the traditions of the Luvale people of the Zambezi – the group hail from Victoria Falls – their sound is pan-African. A blend of Zimbabwe’s tumbling chimurenga rhythms and Congo’s soukous guitars underpin uptempo numbers such as Nyansola, where they are joined by a horn section from Ghanaian highlife troupe Santrofi. Upfront is the powerful voice of Mathias Muzaza, a charismatic figure able to strut and swing or to soar spectacularly. Especially poignant is Manina, a lament for the lives swept away by the pestilence of Covid (the album was cut during lockdown), where Muzaza is joined by female singer Ulethu, a favourite from Zimbabwe’s thriving house scene.

Most songs celebrate Luvale tradition, whether offering thanks for harvest or praising the annual Makisi festival where masked dancers in incredible costume become ancestral spirits to initiate boys into adulthood. A stirring third act, with three remixes from Luyando for extras.

Related Topics