Jaime Murdoch reviews Bongo Love

All the way from Zimbabwe, a country rich in culture with much of their music based on the mbira (thumb piano), Bongo Love played at ArtSpring Friday, July 20th. Salt Spring was a favourite spot for the group; they were “so happy to meet (us)”, said band leader John Mambira. The evening’s atmosphere was one of family and reunion.

The night began with drummer, vocalist and leader of the group, Mambira having some trouble with his djembe strap. A voice from the audience projected “Can ya do me up honey?” and a laugh filled the room before the warm African beats came forth. “Afrocoustics is dancing music” said John in between songs. Audience members clapped along and several got up to dance. For those seated, there were two shows going on, Salt Springers dancing, including mamas and their babes of African descent, and musicians on stage: John on djembe/bongo and the congas, Mpho Mambira on baritone mambira, Trymore Jombo on mbira and back-up vocals, and James Buzuzi on guitar.

One of Southern Africa’s most colourful bands, they carry their country to the stage by remaining true to traditional Zimbabwean style music, and adding new flavours by fusing it with guitar, coining this genre “Afrocoustics”. James Buzuzi’s guitar performance was a highlight of the music that night; his smile and confidence kept people grooving and moving.

The band saluted Salt Spring community member James Mujuru, welcoming him on to the stage to dance and add his own vocal styling to the music of his brothers. A talented mbira player himself, James was in the flow and looked at home and at ease, providing a closer glimpse into the culture of Zimbabwe for his young son in the audience.

What a treat the night was, to experience “Afrocoustics” and Zimbabwean music along with community, family and happy dancing. Bongo Love brought “Love, Peace & Harmony” to ArtSpring. A night to remember.

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