Zimbabweans Pay Tribute to Late Mbira Maestro Chiwoniso

Tatenda Gumbo

Zimbabweans paid tribute Thursday to one of the country’s best known musicians and mbira legend, Chiwoniso Maraire, who passed away Wednesday evening after a short illness.

According to her manager, Cosmas Zamangwe, Maraire was recently admitted in hospital suffering from chest pains.

She was the daughter of the late renowned Zimbabwean mbira player and lecturer, Dumisani Maraire. Born in Washington state in the United States in 1976, Maraire spent the first seven years of her life in the U.S. She attended Mutare Girls High School, among others.

Musician Victor Kunonga, leader of Victor Kunonga and the Peace Band, who is Chiwoniso’s friend and longtime collaborator, said the music world is shocked and pained by the death of one of Zimbabwe’s brightest musicians.

Oliver Mutukudzi’s manager and drummer, Sam Matawire, also said the music world has lost a great musician.

Maraire started playing mbira at the age of four, and her first studio recording was when she was nine years old with her parents, and by the age of 11 she was performing with her father and siblings Tawona and Ziyanai in their family mbira group ‘Mhuri yaMaraire.’

In her biography, Maraire said she was surrounded by mbira music from the day she was conceived.

“I was born into a very musical family, both my parents were musicians, my father was an amazing mbira player, my mother was a beautiful singer.”

Maraire drew inspiration from artists like James Brown, Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin, among others.

Chiwoniso entered the world music charts after releasing her debut album titled ‘Ancient Voices’. She was honored by Radio France and once nominated for best female vocals of Africa in the KORA All-Africa Music Awards.

Over the years, she released other albums including her most recent ‘Rebel Woman’ in 2008.

She collaborated with musicians worldwide and others based in Zimbabwe, while also working with a multinational all women band ‘Women’s Voice, with members drawn from Norway, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Israel.

Her other albums include Timeless and Hupenyu Kumusha, Life at Home, Impilo Ekhaya. The Collaboration: Volume 1.

Maraire is survived by her two daughters, Chengeto and Chiedza. She was once married to the late musician, Andy Brown.

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