Black Umfolozi: Zimbabwe’s singing and dancing African culture ambassadors

Posted: 23 June, 2024 | Category: Uncategorized

Lucky Moyo with the just as legendary culture ambassador Virginia Mukwesha, daughter of Stella Chiweshe who was one of the world’s greatest mbira players and artists. (Picture: Trevor Grundy)


Trevor Grundy writes – Theatre-goers in east Yorkshire with an interest in African song and dance are in for the treat of their lives tonight. East Riding Theatre in Beverley is hosting a one-night only concert by Black Umfolozi, the musical and traditional dance group from Zimbabwe whose singers and dancers have done so much to introduce children, as well as adults, to the richness and diversity of African culture. One of the founders and star performers of this amazing group of talent-studded artists is the Zimbabwean singer, dancer, choreographer and composer, Lucky Moyo.  He is now retired but remains an inspiration to young musicians throughout Africa. This profile by the TRACES PROJECT tells how a boy brought up in a village where life was hard, went on to sing and dance before Nelson Mandela after the long-awaited collapse of apartheid inside South Africa.


Lucky Moyo hails from Zimbabwe via 45 countries around the world.

Lucky was born in what his elders in rural Plumtree-Zimbabwe, called the year of the good rains since in folk and oral traditions years are not known by the calendar dates but what events took place in that year.

Lucky comes from a family of creatives with his mother being known in the village as one of the main singers, dancers and organisers of local events.

Lucky’s brothers Ronny, Michael, Collet and Sinini all sing and play music with Sinini not only having taken music full time but also fronted bands Tanga Pasi, White Umfolosi and the Germany Band.

“Being commissioned to sing for the late Nelson Mandela on his first ever visit to Zimabwe after his release from a 27 year jail term for demanding social justice has been the highlight of my career,” Lucky says.

Lucky Moyo, the village child who went on to delight the eyes and ears of the late, great Nelson Mandela (Picture: Trevor Grundy)


“I have been commissioned to compose songs for events to do with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and sung for her three times. I have met many very famous people but also very humble ordinary people and I tribute all this as having to do with being lucky – what is in a name?”

Lucky had a very humble poor childhood and he would go on one meal a day. His parents separated when he was young and Lucky was brought up by his mum with the help of his loving grand mother and grand uncle.

“He was my best lecturer ever and resource person at the university of life,” Lucky says. “He taught me and equipped me with all the values I have needed in life.”

Lucky found himself living the in the bush in Zambia for 5 years during the struggle for Zimbabwe s independence again a phase in his life that Lucky says taught him so about resilience as everyone in the camp would go for up to two days without food and survive only on drinking water.


Whenever the United Nations and NGOs could not supply enough tents Lucky his friends would sleep out in the open.

Independence came to Zimbabwe in 1980 and Lucky decided education was going to be a weapon no one could take away from him and he went to the newly formed George Silundika High School to do his secondary education.

It was at this school that Lucky met the other members of the world famous Black Umfolosi. The group was formed with the aim of singing for fun and joy but education officials who visited the school soon saw potential in the group as a good example of the concept of education with production – an approach to education that values both academic and vocational courses.

The group was soon invited to state events and private events and in 1990 the group had their maiden tour of the UK as part of MayFest in Glasgow and also celebrating Zimbabwe s 10th Anniversary.

From this tour invitations then came from Australia, Canada, Europe, Swaziland, USA, India and more.

Lucky has always had this idea of being an artist but also had a keen interest in the business side of the arts industries and he always wanted to understand what he calls the three pillars of the arts industries.

Lucky Moyo is a great admirer of the late sculptor Bernard Takawira. He is seen here with one of Takawira’s best known works, Veiled Spirit Bride. (Picture: Trevor Grundy)


1) The creatives – ideas into being

2) The managerial – anything from costing, making to marketing and reinvesting with focus and even collecting data on the effectiveness or need of the product/service offered.

3) The technical – anything from sound, light, branding, presenting into all that enhances the product.

SparkedEcho Lucky

As part of his work experience while studying for his MA in arts management Lucky worked at Music for Change in Canterbury. This helped fulfil his ambition of using music as a vehicle for social change addressing various social topical issues.

Lucky now works mostly in schools, youth and community centres, festivals, arts centres, in the criminal justice system and lately in the corporate sector doing work that addresses cross cultural understanding, social inclusion, diversity and equality.

“Creative approaches to dealing with social issues is amazing,” Lucky says, “as you do not always provide answers but provoke and challenges people to think and reflect in a safe environment. With such challenging topical issues like immigration, Black Lives Mater and of course a heightened awareness of issues of equality and race relations, the arts play a role. The arts are a software to deals with society’s hardwares.


A young Zimbabwean musicians  plays the mbira at a concert organised by Music for Change  in Canterbury (Picture: Trevor Grundy)


In his spare times Lucky enjoys folk festivals in Wales, Scotland and all over England, learning what he calls indigenous cultures. Lucky firmly believes that diversity is a two-way process where people learn about each other ‘s cultures, values, belief and all that traditions. Integration and co-existences happens when we all reacheout.

Lucky has worked and performed over the years with such organisations like Platforma, Cohesion Plus, Music in Detentin, Music for Change, People United and Ideas Test.

Lucky has been running a community choir for the past 10 years ( Swale Sings) which he says was started as a way to reach out to the local community and to make friends who are now family. Swale Sings is a key part of Swale arts events and cultural life. Collaborations have gone from working with Sam Carter on BBC Andrew Marr Show to working with 4X4, an amazing Bangra outfit based in Gravesend.

Lucky has also sat on panels to advise Kent Police on race relations, boards of cultural organisations and he has been doing volunteer working with refuge and migrant communities all over the UK and, working in some of the immigration removal centres.


About Traces Project:

Traces Project is the first digital timeline to tell the untold history of arts and culture contributions by people who have sought safety in the UK from conflict and persecution.

Traces tells this previously untold history through the prism of arts, culture and creativity. We believe that artists and practitioners who have sought safety from conflict and persecution have hugely contributed to everyday life in the UK, enhancing a national sense of collective wellbeing.

The definition of arts and culture throughout this timeline is inclusive and multidisciplinary, allowing for an array of art forms, mediums, activities and imaginations. Some of the artists and creative practitioners featured are already household names and established figures. Others are mid-way through careers whilst others are emerging and hungry to communicate new talent.

We encourage you to explore the many diverse stories and creative visions that populate Traces. Each entry carries with it a unique story interweaving artistic aspiration and achievement with a multi-layered history of movement and cultural displacement. Stories are shaped by specific descriptions of the contexts and histories from whence individuals have fled or departed, together with summaries of UK asylum and immigration policies on arrival.

Traces is not a fully representative digital timeline, but will continue to evolve with your input and participation. To this end, the timeline is designed to accommodate a robust social engagement and education programme. Our shared aim is to have this timeline reach and include diverse audiences in schools, communities and other public and private settings.

– Counterpoints Arts