After spreading their sound to the world on Rising Tide, Mokoomba return with Luyando, an album which alters their approach slightly but ends up revealing a group that continues to grow more dynamic with each release. For this record the band wanted to place more emphasis on Victoria Falls, the area of Zimbabwe they call home. They refer to the falls as “smoke that thunders” in their language. Luyando translates to “mother's love” in Tonga and this effort proudly displays their Tonga and Luvale heritage.
“Mokole” kicks things off with the infectious sound Mokoomba are known for except this time the guitars are acoustic instead of electric. The song immediately draws the listener in with punctuated, popping guitar phrases, group harmony and lead singer Mathias' gripping, textured voice. Mokole is an Ndebele word for water, which is a driving influence throughout this record.
“Kulindiswe” is a bouncing, upbeat track with great guitar and bass interplay. Mathias leads the group while the others offer steady backing vocals. Their playful approach here is locked in, even though it comes across as loose and carefree.
“Kumukanda” grips right from the start. The melody comes in and is answered by Mathias and the group, with the leader's voice dominating the song. Even when the band goes acoustic, the chemistry is authentic and the music is immediate and memorable. The song details the place where Mokoomba participated in the Luvale initiation ceremony, marking their journey from boyhood to manhood.
Luyando reflects on the traditions the band have grown up with in the Luvale and Tonga cultures. They sing proudly of their heritage and the powerful influence the Zambezi River has on their music. Mokoomba means “great respect for the river” in Tonga. The title track features more soulful group vocals and a punctuated groove that twists with joy.
A piece of a field recording starts “Kambowa,” which transitions from a traditional performance at a gathering into the band taking up the lyric and melody on this powerful vocal and percussion driven track about loss and longing for home.
“Njawane” carries a sense of intrigue from the first notes. The band flies effortlessly here. Mathias leads proceedings as the band harmonizes in the background. Guitars, bass and percussion strike as one and shake the air around them. As the intensity builds the band, led passionately by bassist Abundance Mutori, catches fire and soars. The song warns young hunters to keep up their guard when hunting lions.
“Muzwile” bounces along with breezy guitar lines, steady percussion and Mathias' lively lead vocals. The groove picks up with some serious bass playing towards the end.
“Vimbe” is a group effort with the band singing together with simple percussion their only accompaniment. It showcases how powerful the band are without their instruments. Mathias leads the singers with his passionate, dynamic voice. The effect of the song is arresting and is sure to stop the listener in their tracks.
Following hot on the heels of “Vimbe,” the beautiful, stripped down “Mabemba” showcases how impressive Mathias' voice is. Here he starts slow and soft before erupting into moving display of vocal mastery. All the while the group supports him with their warm harmonies.
The album closes with “Nyaradzo,” a spirited a capella song about courtship that wraps up the album nicely. This band sounds impressive in any setting. Their enthusiasm and technique is exemplary and their second album hits the mark. - Alex Brown
A live performance from the Kennedy Center in August, 2017