Mokoomba: Luyando

Mokoomba takes an acoustic turn on Luyando, a release that sees them leave pop behind for solid Zimbabwean traditions.



Label: OutHere
US Release Date: 2017-03-10
UK Release Date: 2017-03-10

Hailing from a border town in Zimbabwe, Mokoomba is known both at home and abroad as a group of rising stars. The band’s previous releases have been heavy on fusion, mixing rock and dance music with traditional Zimbabwean sounds, garnering praise, awards, and a good number of dub remixes.

Not so on Mokoomba’s latest. Named for a word that means "mother’s love" in Tonga, one of the first languages ever spoken in the Zambezi Valley, Luyando sees the group finding its roots with more straightforward acoustic sounds in an affectionate tribute to home. Every track feels like a team effort, with strong vocal harmonies and rapid-fire drums often dominating, accompanied by blissful guitar. Stripped down to these bare essentials, Luyando almost feels like an intimate studio session. Mokoomba unplugged.

Established fans may be shocked at the outset, but the change in technique works out well. These sounds are authentic ones to Mokoomba, and there’s an extra touch of warmth to the whole album -- it sounds organic, each song made of elements that grow from each other, blossoming together.

The album begins with "Mokole", a midtempo piece spiked with hints of soukous. Dedicated to the life-giving Victoria Falls, it ends with the line "Give me some water to drink." As drought and flood alternately ravage Zimbabwe, the message and Mokoomba’s collective worries and hopes for the region are clear. Emotions stay high throughout the album, with songs like "Kulindiswe" and "Luyando" recalling home and family with a rosy nostalgia.

Several of the songs are pulled from tradition and arranged by members of Mokoomba; "Kumukanda" and "Vimbe" offer glimpses into the initiation rituals of youth in the Luvale group, otherwise kept secret from those not going through the process. Grieving song "Kambowa" pulls in enough backing voices to evoke the feeling of a large-scale funeral ritual, and melodic "Mabemba" focuses on the day-to-day events of village life, the intertwined relationship between every member of the community.

At the end, Mokoomba emulates Ladysmith Black Mambazo with "Nyaradzo", an a cappella track sung in the Mbube style. Unaccompanied, the singers of Mokoomba are nothing but soulful. Going sans instruments can be a bold move for a band known for dance beats, but Mokoomba has the skill for it, and the song rises to the top, ending Luyando on a high note.

In a nation whose popular music scene has been devastated in the past by deaths from AIDS, Mokoomba has taken on the heavy burden of putting Zimbabwean music back into the spotlight. The group has barely started at this point, only two full albums in so far, and already, it has touched on everything from modern pop music to retro Congolese rumba to classic cultural traditions and back again. It may not have the same youthful vibes and carefree grooves of Rising Tide, but it proves that Mokoomba has grown in the past five years, and whether the group goes back to a more high-energy sound in the future or stays here at its source, Mokoomba does its country’s music scene proud.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.