Gonora Sounds is a family band that has been busking on the streets of Zimbabwe since 2004. Entertaining thousands of commuters with their street beat dubbed Gonora Sounds by regular revellers. The band is led by blind singer/songwriter Daniel Gonora, a master on the guitar with protege teenage son Isaac Gonora on drums. In recent years, the band has extended to sometimes include seasoned musicians Nelson “Mr Longman” Mutanda on lead guitar and Malizani Mbewe on bass for a full band set up.
Gonora Sounds under different band names have managed to record several street distributed EPs including Shoko Harivikwe. Daniel and Isaac’s street performances have garnered over 10 million views on the internet with international audiences following them on social media
The father and son duo feature in multi award winning documentary 'You Can't Hide From The Truth' , and have collaborated with American Jazz Legend Pharoah Sanders as well as several international musicians on the Fernando Arno produced “What Love”. British duo, The Busy Twist have recently remixed the band’s song Rwendo Rweupenyu into the ‘Journey of Life Remix”
Gonora Sounds debut full length album Hard Times Never Kill. Produced by Zimbabwean music luminary Bothwell Nyamondera and American Producer David Aglow released in February 2022 on New York record label The Vital Records.
I come from eastern Zimbabwe—Bocha, Marange in Mutare. I started singing and playing when I was only seven years old. I used to play homemade guitars that I would make using gallon jugs and branches cut from trees. I used to play for my classmates and they would love it. My father didn’t like the idea of me pursuing music because in his mind it would turn me into a rombe (a tramp), so he would break the guitars I made.
But I just kept making them, over and over. I loved all kinds of music growing up, and I think true musicians should never be fussy about the kind of music they listen to. You never know the kind of audience you’ll have in the future or what they will want to hear. But the music I love best is sungura. When I play it, I can feel it blessing me in my bones. Sungura is a strictly Zimbabwean style of music that is really important here. It can be mid- tempo, but other times it’s really fast, in both the playing and the singing. My livelihood depends solely on music. I play wherever I’m invited to play—bars, churches, concert venues, parties, etc. I do play other kinds of music besides sungura—rumba, jazz, rock, many kinds—it all depends on the crowd we are playing for.
My fans here follow me because of the way I write songs. People can relate to them because I write about real-life issues. People have also told me that I have charisma because I like everyone around me and I talk to everyone and people seem to enjoy that. People wonder if I was born blind. I was not. I lost my sight when I was in seventh grade. I don’t know how it happened. One day I just woke up blind. I’m not sure if it was my own medical problem or if it was something else, but I deﬁnitely didn’t have any accident that affected my eyes.
I don’t ﬁnd it hard to take care of my family because my music provides most of what I need. That is why I’ve taken to playing on the streets—to provide for my family. The album we’ve done here, I think it’s the very best work I’ve done, and I really hope it pays off! I gave it my all and I feel hopeful about it. What I would love more than anything is to go on tour with this music. Let the world know that we are ready
I was born in 1980, in the Karoi district of Zimbabwe, but my family is originally from Malawi. I started playing music when I was in 2nd grade. I make my living playing the bass at all kinds of venues: bars, concert halls, dance halls, private parties, etc. The audience is usually relaxed and enjoys the music with a few drinks. Occasionally there can be a bit of violence in the crowd, but it never affects the performers and I’ve always felt safe at shows, ever since I started playing.
I got serious about sungura around the year 2000, but I also play other types of music, like gospel and jazz. I don’t want to be a one-dimensional musician, and I love learning new things with other types of music. Besides music, I do other things on the side to help provide for my family. I used to raise chickens, but money for upfront costs can be an issue here because of the economic crises we’ve had. But I’m going to start up again thanks to the money I got from this project.
Life, growing up was not easy. I remember everything being very scarce and very hard at that time. I had to leave school at 15 because my father could just not afford it anymore. But music has done wonders for me, and that’s why I love it so much. It’s lifted me out of poverty and made me into a totally different person.I’ve done music with a lot of people, but I’ve never felt as good as when I’m playing with Mr. Gonora and this band. For me, it’s the best there is. It feels like making music with family.
I was probably ﬁve when I started singing at funerals. After that, I began singing in church. I would do solos and people would love it. When I sang with others, I noticed that I could follow their voices quite easily and that harmony also came easy to me. When I saw that I was the only one that could do that, I thought, “Ok, so I’m not bad.” By the time I was ten I started taking singing seriously.
My parents have always known that I love music. They were the ﬁrst ones to notice that I was good at singing, so they support me. Sometimes I have to go away for a few nights for gigs, and they love that. They’re happy for me. As a young woman in Zimbabwe, the main thing I’ve been focused on is getting myself an education and making a bit of money when I can. I got a perfect score on my ﬁnal exams and I got into the University of Zimbabwe, where I am studying law.
I love the Gonora’s. I’ve never done a studio album before. It was a great experience. My parents were very excited for me. I was sitting at home bored doing nothing and they thought this was a chance for me to be part of something special. Mr. Gonora’s songs are great for sunngura, which is looser than other types of music. Mr. Gonora’s lyrics tend to focus on giving us advice about life. But it’s not just lip service. Mr. Gonora loves being happy and it really shows on this album
My name is Nelson Mutanda, but everyone calls me Mr. Longman. I started playing guitars way back in grade school. I ﬁrst learned from my brother, who played those homemade, banjo-style guitars. Seeing him play got me excited, so I took it up as well. Growing up, I listened to all kinds of music—traditional, jazz, sungura. Sungura has always been my favorite.
When sungura was ﬁrst formulated here in Zimbabwe, it was based on a style of music that comes from elsewhere. But we adapted it to our traditional styles of music. In that way, it became our own. I usually play in bars, but I also play other places—weddings, parties, etc. That’s how I make my living, so I have to be versatile. I ﬁnd the guitar addictive, so I decided to live off the thing I love the most. There are other things I could do, but I love making music too much.
I was raised in Masvingo, in central Zimbabwe. I moved out when I started getting serious about music. My parents never wanted me to be a musician. They only like it now that I can buy them things because of it. I’m glad Mr. Gonora wanted me to play on his album. They had to come ﬁnd me. I was in the bush with some relations panning for gold. I do that sometimes because it can be proﬁtable. But I’m happy they came and got me out of there. Of all the recording I’ve done, this album is the one I’ve been most excited about. Everyone knew what they were doing. There were no struggles and we got a lot done in a relatively short time.
I come from near Bulawayo, in an area called Ntabazinduna in the southwestern part of the country. I’m the youngest of seven. My mother died when I was very young, but my sisters did a great job and took good care of me. I started with sungura back in 2002. Since then, I’ve worked with so many artists such as Leonard Zhakata and Albert Nyathi
I’ve also done my own music and have two local solo albums, which are predominantly gospel. Aside from singing, I also do some small business on the side, because of the tough economic situation we are in here. I guess you could call it import/export. I buy stuff in South Africa and sell it here. I do okay. For me, Mr. Gonora is like a father and I’ll work with him whenever he calls for me.
Mr. Gonora’s fan base really appreciates the talent he has, and the way he sings and all the good jokes he makes. But I think they also feel bad for his condition, so they have an emotional connection to him and are especially loyal. Working on this album was a great experience. The Gonora family treated me and everyone else I was working with really well. We had a great time, and I think you can hear that in the music.