Inspiration for starting a band can come from anywhere. It could be a group of friends trying to mimic their favorite band or trying to create something completely new. It could simply be a person’s preferred method of personal expression. Whatever the reason, the common denominator should always be a love for the type of music being played, and the willingness to share that music.
Champaign’s Mhondoro was created with that very idea in mind.
Many of the songs that the band plays are traditional Zimbabwean songs that have been adapted to instruments such as the guitar. The product is extremely vibrant music that is accompanied by lyrics that describe the Zimbabwean lifestyle.
“It is extremely danceable, happy-sounding music, but most of the lyrics are about how hard life is there,” drummer Gordon Kay said.
When trying to categorize Mhondoro into a specific genre, the easiest way would be to call them a cover band with a unique source of inspiration Mhondoro cover songs made popular in the African country of Zimbabwe. A type of music usually identified with the mbira, a musical instrument composed of a wooden board with metal keys attached to it.
The band, comprised of members who are either from Zimbabwe, have visited there or just love the music, have been generally well received for what they do. This hasn’t stopped some people from wondering why a group of mostly Americans decided to create a band devoted to playing only African music.
While performing at an African Language Conference outside of the Illini Union,
a presumably intoxicated man questioned the band as to why they were playing music that didn’t seem to fit their outward appearance. Their answer was simple: “because we love it.”
Cover songs may not be all the band will play, though; original songs of Zimbabwe nature may be in their future.
“We may try and write a few songs, hybridize what we are as American musicians and mix styles,” Kay said. “We just wanted to start off true to the genre instead of butchering it; we wanted to be a good representation of the music we love.”
And in case you were wondering, Zimbabwean music provides the backing to an extremely energetic live show that anybody who enjoys dancing, or even just good music, should look in to.

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