Mokoomba’s Mathias Muzaza perfoms at Hifa’s opening night

Mokoomba’s Mathias Muzaza perfoms at Hifa’s opening night

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Mtandazo Dube

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FOR years, many Zimbabweans have wondered what makes the internationally acclaimed Victoria Falls-based band, Mokoomba, tick.

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Some of their guitarists have been hired to record with top musicians in Zimbabwe and abroad, and they have performed at major international festivals around the world, yet back home, the group remains a tough sell.

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Those who attended the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) on Tuesday last week, may have found out why Mokoomba has been a hit away from their homeland.

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As the group continues to introduce itself to new audiences in Zimbabwe, their Hifa opening show left a lot of people interested to find out more about the band’s electrifying front-man, who carries such an incredible voice.

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His name is Mathias Muzaza, the “man with a thousand voices”. Most people in the audience did not even realise that the group was Zimbabwean — they sound rather he sounds like a West African.

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After mesmerising the Hifa crowd with an electrifying performance, Muzaza, who was a stand out performer in his group and thus a target of many a journalist, quickly vanished from the scene.

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But in this age of technology, most scribes thought they would just get hold of him via social media or even on the phone.

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Muzaza, however, neither has a phone nor is active on any of the social networking sites.

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“Mathias is very reserved and often shies away from the limelight and social media when he is off-stage. He grew up with a proud and deep respect for the culture and traditions of the Tonga and Luvale,” said Mokoomba’s manager Marcus Gora.

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On why he sounds more West African than Zimbabwean, Gora said: “Victoria Falls is a melting pot with many Southern African languages so Mathias speaks fluently in Tonga, Ndebele, Luvale and Nyanja while he also speaks a good level of Shona and Kalanga.

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“Muzaza’s mother was born in Zambia and his father was born in Angola but both parents immigrated to and raised him in Zimbabwe. He is still perfecting his Shona and Kalanga while working on his English.”

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The 29-year-old father of two lives in Victoria Falls where he grew up.

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Said Gora: “For many performers, what happens on stage is an act, but for Mathias, anyone who has seen him live on stage can tell you that when he is on stage he shares a true passion for music.”

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Mokoomba’s debut album, released in 2012, “Rising Tide”, was produced by Ivorian, Manou Gallo, which is why the group sounds mostly West African.

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The group is said to be working on a second album due for release “soon”, which carries some Shona songs —perhaps Mokoomba will finally be accepted in Zimbabwe.