Mokoomba: Tusona – Tracings in the Sand

October 12, 2023

Sounds Natural and Human

Listening Post 377. The Shona name for Victoria Falls, the great cataracts of the Zambezi, is “Mosi-oa-Tunya”—Smoke that Thunders—and the water’s misty roar can be heard as far as 40 km (25 mi) away. But there’s a sound from the adjacent city of Victoria Falls that in recent years has travelled much farther: The music of Mokoomba, which has performed in more than 40 countries and earned a reputation as Zimbabwe’s leading band. The group’s third album, Tusona: Tracings in the Sand, builds on their fame. Led by Mathias Muzaza’s smooth and commanding voice and Trustworth Samende’s sparkling electric and acoustic guitars, the six-member group’s style is rooted in Zimbabwean tradition and layered with Zamrock, Malian pop, soukous and reggae. On Tusona they are joined by the Ghanaian highlife ensemble Santrofi, Congolese artist Desolo B, and Ulethu, a star vocalist from Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Blended sound comes naturally to a band from a multi-cultural region and that sings, on the new album, in six languages. And the unifying theme through 10 new tracks (plus three remixes from their previous album, Luyando) is maintaining a society, with songs dedicated to communal welfare, family, education, empathy, dealing with loss and transmitting values. In the throbbing Makisi, masked figures represent ancestors returning to the living world to help children grow into responsible adults (video 1). Prompted by the pandemic experience, Manina (Drowning, video 2) is a cry over lost lives. Nzara Hapana (No Hunger, video 3) expresses a husband’s desire to protect his wife and children in the event of his passing; while Tamvela Mama (Mother’s Prayer, video 4) exalts family cohesion. And as rising temperatures threaten agriculture, Nyansola (video 5) is a plea to the harvest goddess for rain, to help the crops of the Zambezi Valley flourish and spread—like the resonance of its natural and human sounds. (Out Here Records)

Mokoomba: Tusona – Tracings in the Sand
Mathias Muzaza: Lead vocals, backing vocals, percussion
Trustworth Samende: Electric guitar, nylon guitar, backing vocals
Abundance Mutori: Bass, backing vocals
Phathisani Moyo: Keyboards, backing vocals
Miti Mugande: Percussion, backing vocals
Ndaba Coster Moyo: Drums, backing vocals

Guest artists
Ulethu: Lead vocals
Desolo B: Lead vocals
Santrofi: Nobert Wonkyi Arthur (trumpet); Bernard Gyamfi (trombone); Emmanuel Arthur (sax, horns); Elphas Mashamba (trumpet); Osbourne Matengenzara (alto sax); Lovejoy Chawanda (trombone)
Sharon Manyonganise: Backing vocals
Sharon Chisha: Backing vocals
Prince: Drums
Madhiwali‘ Dzuwa: Drums
Donald Moyo: Keys

Related post. Mokoomba: Luyando, Listening Post 100, May 24, 2017.


Lyrics & music: Mokoomba
Performed in Luvale

From the album notes: Every year there is a “Lukumbi” ceremony that brings together the Luvale people and guests. Everyone including the chief and his deputies, government officials and of course the village beauties join this week of celebration. It‘s a huge feast, with ululation and dancing performed by young masked male dancers—”Makishi“ (or Makisi) in Ngangela language—and by girls who have undergone the “Wali“ initiation ceremony.


Manina / Drowning, feat. Ulethu
Lyrics & music: Mokoomba
Performed in Tonga and English

Album notes: A pestilence has been unleashed on world, devouring young and old, like a flooded, roaring river swallowing everything in its path. Our people are drowning (“manina”) and no one knows when it will end. We cry for all the lives and livelihoods lost across the globe and hope cures and solutions will be urgently found for this pandemic, and the ones to come. The song features young singer Ulethu who is known as a House artist in Zimbabwe.


Nzara Hapana / No Hunger
Lyrics & music: Mokoomba
Performed in Shona and Nyanja

Album notes: The song is a letter by a man to his wife, reassuring her that he loves her and is working hard to provide for her and the entire family. He has written a will designed to protect her in the event he passes. He highlights that he has noticed how women are often abused and dispossessed of property by a husband‘s family and relatives if a will is not at hand. The man hopes that if he plans and invests well, his family will not face any hardships. “Nzara Hapana“ means “no hunger“ in Shona.


Tamvela Mama / Mother’s Prayer
Lyrics & music: Mokoomba
Performed in Nyanja and Luvale

Album notes: A mother urges love and family unity among her children. In the chorus, the family responds positively, assuring their mother that they understand and appreciate her words of love and counsel.


Lyrics & music: Mokoomba
Performed in Luvale

Album notes: Luvale religion recognizes Kalunga as a supreme power and a sky god of creation as well as Mahamba, the nature & ancestral spirits. This song tells a mythical story about Nyasola, a goddess of harvests, whom the village petitions to provide good rains and abundant harvests. At the beginning of a good harvest, the villagers thank Nyasola by bringing her their first fruits while they sing and dance, hoping this ritual will keep her happy and future harvests will always be abundant.



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