Local music promoter John Henderson said he was sitting on his couch in Arroyo Seco a few years ago when he first heard the Zimbabwe band Mokoomba on the television show "Later… with Jools Holland," a contemporary British music program created by the BBC. He couldn't stay seated for long and said he was "immediately impressed by the energy, sound and youthfulness of the band. I fell in love with them."
It took four long years to secure the dates for the upcoming show Friday (March 9) from 7-11 p.m. at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west.
Henderson explained the challenge of booking Mokoomba: "Taos is not an anchor date for shows. Cities like Boulder, Telluride and Santa Fe are, and we usually get what's left over." Henderson said that issue of access is something his production company of 20 years, Roots and Wires, wants to change. "We want to bring world music to a world-class audience."
He continued by explaining the meaning of his venture's name, Roots and Wires: "The music and the message come from the Earth and goes out over the airwaves for all to experience."
Henderson said Taos can anticipate a high energy show from Mokoomba. According to its website, the band's name has its origins in "the deep respect that the Tonga people have for the Zambezi River and for the vibrant life that it brings to their music and culture." The band's sounds can best be described as harmonic and percussive.
The band's robust vocals, hypnotic harmonies and surprising guitar riffs leave a strong impression. Henderson said the band will be playing a fusion of traditional and modern. They're like "Ladysmith Black Mambazo, mixed in with some rap, reggae and traditional drums," he said. "They are the next generation of African music.There are political changes in Zimbabwe; I'm interested to hear the musician's perspective."
Abundance Mutori, who plays bass and sings backup vocals for the band, said that he was on tour with the band in Europe, watching with the rest of the world as the leadership of his country dramatically and peacefully changed hands last year. He said he was proud to see people coming together with one voice and the peaceful way the change came about.
Regarding the band's future, Mutori said they are looking forward to playing in new venues and locations they've never played before. Taos is one of them. He said, "Music is a passion. It's our lifestyle. We want to share the good vibes and happiness, to showcase our different cultures in the hope we can all live together."
Mutori grew up in a musical family. His dad was a bass player who taught and inspired him throughout his upbringing. He said he learned the basics of music theory at Mosi-Oa-Tunya High in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. This high school is where, in 2002, he met the other members of the band that would become Mokoomba.
He said his father showed him the ropes and taught him how to play. Soon after, he was practicing and jamming with his bandmates. His parents named him Abundance because of their happiness of him being their firstborn son. His namesake is his parents' wish for his success, both personally and professionally.
In talking about the band's early influences, Mutori included many pan-American icons and local musician Alfred Mjimba who they looked up to. Mutori said Mjimba "gave them a chance to make their own style of music" and let them "use his equipment before they could afford their own."
The band developed its sound by playing in restaurants and busking on the streets for tourists. Mutori describes their music as "Afro-fusion, a mixture of Tonga rhythms, soca, soukous and other styles of music we listened to growing up. It is music where we don't have a border, we incorporate reggae, funk, and rap as well."
Mokoomba found international success with the help of the nonprofit Music Crossroads International, which organizes workshops, festivals and competitions in Africa. The band took part in a local competition in 2007. The following year they were invited to the InterRegional festival and contest in Malawi, where they won.
Mokoomba is based in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The band's six members are: Mathias Muzaza (lead vocals), Ndaba Coster Moyo (drums, backup vocals), Trustworth Samende (lead guitar, backup vocals), Donald Moyo, (keyboards, backup vocals), Miti Mugande, (percussion and backup vocals) and Abundance Mutori (bass, backup vocals).
They have been playing together for more than 15 years. According to Mutori, "Staying together helps us to create and understand and musically find ways to collaborate … it's easy for us to blend together because we know each other so well. This also allows us to find the ways and means to work thru [sic] our differences."
Tickets to Mokoomba are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. For more information, call the venue at (575) 758-1900 or visit taosmesabrewing.com.