Robert Abia Moore
& Tinofireyi Zhou

27 07 2021

Robert ‘Abia’ Moore is a Zimbabwean musician who grew up influenced by diverse sounds, leaning strongly towards soul, rock and funk.  He is a founder member of the legendary band Soul and Blues Union (SABU) formed in 1967, performing in concerts across the country. In 1968, Moore won Best Rhythm Guitarist at the Rhodesian Texan Rock Band Competition. In 1978 he joined Osibisa, the Ghananian-English Afro rock band, recording a number of albums over a period of four years. The band toured internationally, across the UK, Europe, Africa and India where their acclaimed album Osibisa Unleashed (Live in India) was recorded. Osibisa performed in Harare at a special Independence celebration in 1980. Moore returned to Zimbabwe in 1982 and resumed the band SABU as Sabuku which continues today.

Tinofireyi Zhou aka Aero5ol employs the spoken and written word, street art and sound-based intervention to engage and interrogate the world. He has performed at festivals and participated in exhibitions locally and internationally, including WHOSE LAND HAVE I LIT ON NOW? SAVVY Contemporary Berlin (2018) and That, Around Which The Universe Revolves Chapter 3, a SAVVY Contemporary project at Njelele Art Station, Harare (2017). He co-produced the Pan-African Space Station PASS Popup Harare for the exhibition We Need New Names by Kudzanai Chiurai at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (2017) and co-founded Revolutions Per Minute, an itinerant vinyl archive and DJ project (2015). He has taken up several residencies, including the “LowRes” research residency at Art Cube Studios, Jerusalem. He continues to work on a long-term research-based project exploring his family’s Lemba heritage, a people of Black Jewish descent found in Southern Africa, archiving their 2500 year journey.

From what I gather...
Tinofireyi Zhou

sound                                   1’ 44’ 36”

From what I gather…” is a fragment of an interview with Robert Abia Moore, words harvested from the original context and used as a guiding philosophy for the soundpiece. The title references a coming together, an accumulation of disparate parts to create its own unique whole, much like the way the Osibisa story itself is an assemblage of disconnected (but connected) parts, collectivised to create an “all new” sonic arrangement. The mythology of the invention of Afrorock, Afrofunk, Zamrock, Zimheavy etc. all influenced the structuring of the piece, as much as Pan African ideas around Black Liberation, decolonized perspectives on African rhythms, sounds and practices which were deeply informed by anticolonial movements at the time.

The sound sketches follow, lead, illustrate and dance around the story of Moore. They sometimes walk into scenes he has been, and other times walk not too far from him. They are soundtracks to his life and journey though they are not entirely connected to his nature as a human being, his preferences or his logic. The soundtrack might be an understanding of the time, or of time, from where Zhou stands, geographically as well as according to the laws of space-time in 2021. Reflecting on material amassed over the years, from newspaper articles, related conversations, interviews, vinyl LPs to music -- Zhou meditates on Moore’s input, and also on this moment of questioning, of coming together, this moment of a shared unknowing, shared journeying and adventure that created and fortified the story of Osibisa.   


  • Soul & Blues Union (SABU) – What’s The Fuss
  • Magna Carta – Africa Sounds
  • Harari – Oya Kai
  • Hallelujah Chicken Run Band – Alikulila
  • Thomas Mapfumo & The Acid Band – Hokoyo!
  • Gypsy Caravan – Chiutsi
  • WITCH – Nasauka
  • Bro Valentino – Brand New Revolution
  • Osibisa – Meeting Point
  • Osibisa – Beautiful Seven
  • Osibisa – Celebration
  • Osibisa – Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram
  • Basa Basa Experience – Together We Will Win
  • Lee Perry / Candy Mckenzie – Ice Cream
  • Remi Kabaka – The Quest
  • Fela Ransom Kuti & The Africa ’70 w/ Ginger Baker – Egbe Mi O
  • Beverly Johnson – Don’t Run For Cover
  • Ja:Kova – Muga Yaro

Osibisa, poster 1982 [L-R]: Emmanuel Rentzos, Teddy Osei, Jean-Karl Dikoto Mandengue, Solomon ’Sol’ Amarfio, Robert Abia Moore, Mac Tontoh, Darko Adams ‘Daku’ Potato, Alfred Kari Bannerman.  Courtesy: Robert Moore.

on Robert Abia Moore 
Tinofireyi Zhou 


My most vivid memories of growing up in Bulawayo are conflicted, being part of a black family that had been displaced at the height of liberation struggle, and as the tide turned in favour of black majority rule, eventually relocated to an area that had only recently been desegregated (in the late 70s) from exclusively white. Its schools, neighbourhoods and roads were named after architects of the British colonial and UDI projects. Hans Sauer. Hugh Beadle. Thomas Baines.

The house that we occupied, number 7, contained a variety of contrasting objects, some of which had been left behind by the previous occupant, who had quickly sold the house and returned to Britain. Other things, the family photo albums with black and white photographs set in mining towns and missionary schools, we had carried along from the high-density areas (designated for the black citizens) to this new home.  The result for us and most probably for many other black families, was a home that was an odd mix of British education and western imperialism on the one hand, and ancient African traditions and modern black aesthetics on the other. Inside our home, the grayish-blue colonial style wallpaper’s floral pattern stretched across the living room. Hanging on a wall to one side, a relief artwork depicting an elephant (a totemic reference in our family) placed next to the previous owner’s reproduction of “blue boy”, a Thomas Gainsborough painting, and in a quiet corner towards the front door was our long unused stereo console. I remember quite well the collection of old vinyl records inside the bottom cabinet. Old seven-inch singles and albums that included 5 Star’s Luxury of Life, Steve Kekana’s Colour Me You, Tracey Chapman’s Fast Car, and a faded, worn out cover of Osibisa’s Ojah Awoke.

This vacant and torn record sleeve was my personal introduction to this band whose ‘African sunshine, happy music and good vibes’ easily shone through. Their inviting smiles, the traditional fabrics complemented by modern style jeans giving them a unique unconventional appearance. Their music, though I would not have heard it then, is much like this. The band created a sound that mixed a diversity of traditional African rhythms into modern black expressions such as soul, rock, jazz, disco and funk creating an all new vibrant and contagious hybrid genre that referenced not only the continent but the African diaspora, it is a sound that brought the black experience, and people together in Africa, America, the Caribbean and beyond, celebrating African heritage in a way that may not have been seen prior.

My reintroduction to Osibisa would happen much later, as my passive interest in music eventually grew to a more active, structured, practice built around record collecting and research focused primarily on the sound(track) of black experience. With every new batch accumulated from family collections, charity shops and auctions, Roger Dean’s “flying elephant” design was always present. The generous gatefold design of the Heads LP sits in a plastic crate in my home. The band’s tendency towards the collective informed not only the music but the visual aspect as well, incorporating prominent figures in the world/s of photography, art and design giving a sense of how much time, effort and belief was invested in the band. From aforementioned Roger Dean who had also done cover design on Assagai’s Zimbabwe album, Abdul Mati Klarwein, who had designed Miles Davis’ album Bitches Brew, to photographer John Goldblatt, who had moved to South Africa as a photojournalist, documenting apartheid’s injustices towards its black citizens. As I become more and more aware of the formidable list of musicians that had, at some point, been a part of the Osibisa project. From Busi Mhlongo, Remi Kabaka to Fred Coker (formerly with the band Assagai), are only a few of the names of artists whose individual careers would go on to create some of the most unique and interesting sounds both on and off the African continent. Given all these facts about the band’s history, and its tendencies towards non-conformity and continually metamorphosing sounds, nothing had prepared me to find out about the contribution of a Zimbabwean Robert Abia Moore to the music of Osibisa.

In a virtual interview about his time with the band, he recounts how he joined the line-up “accidentally” between 1979 and 1982, taking up bass and rhythm guitar duties alongside founding brothers Teddy Osei and Mac Tontoh, fellow Ghanaians Kari Bannerman, percussionist Dako Potato Adams, drummer Solomon Amarfio, keyboardist Emmanuel Rentzos and Cameroon-born bassist Jean Dikoto Mandengue, The backing vocalists of the band were an equally stellar line up that included Candy Mckenzie and Desiree ‘Princess’ Heslop, both of whom had impressive solo projects. This particular line up would create projects such as Mystic Energy and African Flight, and their tour and recording of the Unleashed live album. Moore’s individual story and the influence of Osibisa’s sound on the Southern African region, resulted in a sound piece titled From What I Gather…  Listening to him immediately brought to mind the Zimbabwean digital archive - the previously rare and obscure music (now accessed mostly through the world wide web) that has more recently found a place in the discographies of independent labels scattered across the world, whose appreciation and tenacious research has given these sounds second lives among an incredibly diverse and dispersed listenership. Like Robert ‘Abia’ Moore, these “forgotten dreams” in the form of recorded sound may not be immediately familiar within the “enclosures of the house of stone” but were and are now even more so, equally necessary when formulating narratives surrounding Zimbabwe’s musical heritage.

One of the key moments in my conversation with Moore was what turned out to be a rather disenchanting retelling of his experience around the Independence Day performances in April 1980. Following an initial appearance slated for dignitaries at the 7Arts theatre in Harare, they then undertook their nationwide tour alongside Congolese expats, The Real Sounds. He recalls events in stark contrast to typical narrations surrounding the time, lamenting a series of lukewarm responses, cancellations or low attendance to the band’s performances owing to the late summer rains, lack of adequate promotion and in the worst case, technical problems involving the soundsystem. If anything this disillusioning recounting of Osibisa’s experience adds a greater sense of the mythical to Bob Marley’s self funded and self powered (soundwise) performance, which went on despite a riot and tear gas. Further speculating that Ghanaian first lady and wife of Robert Mugabe, Sally (Mugabe) may have facilitated this performance, though not confirmed it would not be such a stretch. Considering that in the early 1970s Osibisa had created the necessary blueprint by which a flurry of local and regional bands would go on to blend western and local rhythms, from Thomas Mapfumo, The Bhundu Boys to Zambia’s The Witch, it was quite disappointing to learn that only a decade later, their presence had not been as celebrated as it would have been then. Their live performances were followed by a recording of their Celebration single’s video (especially composed for the occasion of Zimbabwe’s Independence) which was filmed at the Victoria Falls. 

Moore’s final recording with the band however, was at variance with their Zimbabwe experience. Just over a year later in October of 1981 they would embark on a tour of India, playing to crowds of over 300,000 in Dehli, Bangalore, Calcutta, and Bombay (now Mumbai). Having been paid a visit by their promoter while still in London, whose reassurance came via a misquoting of The Beatles’ infamous “bigger than jesus” remark, he told them in India they were bigger than the President (Neelam Sanjiva Reddy though this may have been said in reference to then Prime Minister Indhira Gandhi). True to the prophecy, they arrived (with a 20,000 Watt Soundsystem on tow) to massive billboards of band members, and eager audiences of university students, young parents, and even their children, who had hardly witnessed any “western” performers, possibly due to civil unrest and the state of emergency that had been instituted. Ever astute to the necessity of adding familiar accents to endear their ‘exotic’ sound to audiences in different geographies, Osibisa had roped in tabla specialist Pandit Dinesh to the lineup, adding another layer of percussive sounds alongside Darko Adams’ special touch. Their performance of Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram, a devotional song popularized by Mahatma Gandhi that harks back to The Salt Marches in colonial India was a familiar, conciliatory song by which the band would send messages of love and unity. To fully encapsulate the magic of this moment one can only refer to Teddy Osei’s booming voice confidently riding over the opening bars, in the venue packed to capacity with a reciprocating audience, as he describes the transcendental notion of the song as ‘the sound of Om.’

Robert Abia Moore on bass (far left) performing with Osibisa, concert tour India 1981. Courtesy: Robert Moore.

Robert Abia Moore (centre) performing with Osibisa, Nottingham, UK tour. c.1979.  Courtesy: Robert Moore.

Gold disc reads, “Osibisa, Concert Tour-India 1981. For outstanding sales of Osibisa Records and Cassettes manufactured in India and to commemorate a series of triumphant concerts. Presented to Robert Abia Moore. The Gramophone Co. of India Ltd.” Courtesy: Robert Moore.