Tributes pour in for Chiwoniso

HARARE - Songbird Chiwoniso Maraire has passed on. Yes, just like that!

The mbira music star, 37, died on Wednesday evening at the CitiMed Hospital in Chitungwiza after being admitted with a suspected pneumonia infection.

Chiwoniso had been admitted at the hospital for the last 10 days and was awaiting a lung biopsy to examine the extent of an infection, according to family sources.

Family and friends have been failing to come to terms with the death of one of Zimbabwe’s talented mbira players.

Since her return from the United States of America in 2010, the Zimbabwean star has been shining and rising.

Maraire left the country with her two daughters at the peak of the country’s economic crisis in 2008 to join her siblings in the US.

But since her return, she has been a draw card as she collaborated with different local and international musicians to produce synergies of astonishing quality.

She was the main draw card during the opening performance of the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) last year where she led a mixed cast comprising several artistes.

The mbira diva’s recent memorable act was her Hifa collaboration with Dutch rock group Moke, which later led to her appearance at the Netherlands’ Freedom Festival where she performed both solo and with others, to an audience of some 160 000 people.

Those lucky to have caught Maraire’s collaboration with artistes from Togo, Cameroon, Korea and Japan in the November 2010 ‘‘Suki Africa’’ Tour will have had a taste of the power of such musical diversity.

Maraire had in recent months collaborated with international singer Max Wild and together, the duo created a soundscape that transcends cultural divides with their unique fusion of jazz, funk, and ancient Africa melodies.

In 2010, Maraire was a major draw card during Pamberi Trust’s gender programme FLAME (Female Literary Arts & Music Enterprise) as female musicians joined the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign.

The mbira queen released several albums, among them Timeless and Rebel Woman that offer messages of hope, inspiration and resistance and features some of southern Africa’s most respected musicians like Louis Mhlanga, Ivan Duran from Belize, Hugh Masekela and Zimbabwean drummer Sam Mataure.

When nominated winner of the Radio International 1998 African Discovery Competition in France, she received $150 000 cash and a promotional package worth $600 000.

For the competition which was open to all artistes throughout Africa, Chiwoniso entered her 1998 debut album Ancient Voices.

Born in America on March 5, 1976, Chiwoniso was proud to come from a musical family.

Her late father Dumisani taught marimba and mbira in America between 1972 and 1990 while Linda her late mother was a dancer.

In 1990 when she was 15, Maraire and her family relocated to Zimbabwe.

Book Café director Paul Brickhill said: “We pay tribute to the greatest musician of her generation, our daughter and sister Chiwoniso. She was part of us.”

Brickhill said Chiwoniso became part of the Pamberi Trust and Book Café family years ago at the start of her career, when she performed and grew at the Monday Open-Mic Nights in the (then) Fife Avenue venue.

“Over the years, she has given, participated, facilitated many performances, festivals, collaborations, workshops and other artistic activities that have touched the lives of so many artistes and audiences around Africa and beyond,” said Brickhill.

Tafadzwa Simba, head of media at Hifa said the loss of Maraire robs the Zimbabwean creative industry of a truly rare and genuine talent.

“Chiwoniso was a leader amongst her generation of artistes. Her talent was unquestionable; and she offered fresh perspectives on a quintessentially Zimbabwean music genre and took it to a whole new level of artistic achievement and world renown.

“She managed a feat that eludes many African artistes: to be genuinely engaging to a wide array of audiences while staying true to the aesthetics and artistic integrity of an authentically African art form.

Her artistic success is evidenced by another feat she managed to accomplish: cultivating a new generation of music lovers while still appealing to all ages and social classes.

“She featured in many Hifa performances — many of which were collaborative. It is interesting to note that whenever she collaborated at Hifa, she was automatically assigned the role of a senior practitioner and inspirer by her peers.

"She was looked up to like a big sister by many of the young artistes who would be working on Hifa productions — many of whom will attribute part of their future success to her inspiration.
Hifa sends its heartfelt condolences to her family,” said Simba.

Fellow musician and former music lecturer at Zimbabwe College of Music, Clayton Ndlovu said Chiwoniso was his student at Zimbabwe College of Music. “She did a Diploma in Ethnomusicology and she was also in Chipawo.

“Chiwoniso was unquestionably the Mbira Queen who transformed the face of Nyunganyunga music and popular culture. She was an amazing composer and performer who inspired a lot of young people — not only in Zimbabwe but all over the world. She will be missed!”

He believes that although she did not win local music awards, she was recognised globally. “Think of the number of projects that she did and the number of people that she worked with. Her music was on point. She also did films. So in a way she was recognised.”

Fellow musician Edith WeUtonga said Chiwoniso was never one to mince her words and still had so much love to give. “She had knowledge to impart. This is a great loss to Zimbabwean female artistes and more so to the nation,” WeUtonga said.

“A heroine is what she is. She broke barriers and is among the very few artistes recognised worldwide to be from Zimbabwe. I am hurt deeply, having worked with her recently as peace ambassadors towards a peaceful vote.

“We had great moments with Sulu, Jah Prayzah and Mono. I am at a loss.”

Musician Clare Nyakujara said it is so sad to lose one of the greatest female artiste in Zimbabwe.

“Sis Chi was an inspiration to many, she will be forever missed but her music will live on. Rest in eternal peace!”

Musician and sculptor Bryn Mteki said he is regretting that he never collaborated with her on his last album Vadzoka after having rehearsed with her and Selmor Mtukudzi. “She then left for a tour in Europe before the recording. It’s a great loss to genuine music. I will miss her voice — each time I called her on her mobile she would say: ‘Sekuru’ and I used to call her Amai Chengeto as she liked to be addressed as a mother.

“Go well and thanks for the effort and encouragement on my last album which was meant to be a massive collaboration,” said Mteki.

Artistes for Democracy in Zimbabwe Trust in Zimbabwe, ADZT said it is saddened by the death of one of its peace ambassadors and a musical icon of our time.

ADZT director Stanely Kwenda said at the time of her death, they were in the midst of organising a huge peace concert where she and other peace ambassadors were supposed to perform to promote peace before, during and after the elections.

“Chiwoniso left us as an organisation a huge gift in the form of the music for the peace album Moyo Munyoro that she recorded together with Suluman Chimbetu, Jah Prayzah and Edith WeUtonga.

The album was launched in April at Domboshawa Growth Point.

“The four-track album preached peace and it was a profound statement by artistes on the kind of Zimbabwe that they yearned for.”

Arts administrator Marcus Gora said Chiwoniso was a giant, but was saddened by the fact that Zimbabweans are fond of celebrating local artistes after they pass on.

“It might also be time for us to reflect as a nation on how well we are giving our artistes the support and recognition they deserve,” Gora said.

“We have had the great fortune of having quite a huge number of talented artistes who have and continue to do us proud, entertaining us and representing the best of Zimbabwe around the world.

“Instead of honouring them, we have largely been distant, giving priority to foreign artistes and content at every opportunity — be it promoting concerts or events, radio play and trivia, media coverage etc.

“This speaks to the amount of confidence we have in ourselves and our products the result of which we find ourselves in a massive ‘culture trade deficit’ where we are needlessly consuming more foreign material than the world cares about our own.”

Elvas Mari, director of National Arts Council of Zimbabwe said he was at a loss for words. “She is one musician who believed and embraced the mbira instrument and introduced it to the whole world. She carried the instrument everywhere she performed — what a loss.”

Theatre producer and actor Daves Guzha said on this journey, he never thought that Chiwoniso would be dropping off so soon from “this bus of creativity and life. I will always remember the infectious smile and wacky sense of humour...you were 15-years-old and your father the late great Dumi came to entrust you to me during the making and subsequent tour of ‘Robinson Crusoe’.

“Many a time as you started your family our paths did continue to cross...remember the three months tour in 2007 when you, Walter Muparutsa, Chirikure, Mandla, Eunice and I could sit till the wee hours of the morning discussing life and art? What about the tours around Zimbabwe.

“The fantastic food you always made at your house each time I would drop by. Your warmth, creativity, sense of purpose and industry good will be sorely missed. All of us and those who were blessed to be in your path will always cherish the times. Gone, but not forgotten,” said Guzha.

Yasin Dhala, a manager at Jazz 105 said Chi’s death came as a shock to many people. “Chi was meant to perform at Jazz 105 on August 23 and it will not happen anymore.”

Comments (3)

My heart is bleeding for the loss of a gifted sister, her touching song, mai sarai zvakanaka song reminds me of my mother, I lost when I was in grade 3, mwari baba ivai nesu brings me very close to God, it gives me a sense of security, it touches on the poor and rich, Chi your music is so rich in words and instruments, your jazz and mbira fusion is exclusive, your album ancient voices is a master piece that put Zimbabwean music on the world map, ndarwadziwa by your untimely death, will listen to your music always, my sister, ndabaiwa pachipfuva nepfumo, radzika zvakanyanya, for your children, mai fambai zvakanaka. Rest in peace.

LINCOLN MUSIMWA - 26 July 2013

The deep cultural flare of music is a heritage to the country, it is timeless, it shall live for so many years, Chiwoniso I salute you, a legendary for real, an early exit on the scene has left so many scars, the music platform has been disturbed, robbed of a naturally talented woman who could express herself well with music, an entertainer who worked tirelessly. Kumagani gani - ndarwadziwa

LINCOLN MUSIMWA - 26 July 2013

The deep cultural flare of music is a heritage to the country, it is timeless, it shall live for so many years, Chiwoniso I salute you, a legendary for real, an early exit on the scene has left so many scars, the music platform has been disturbed, robbed of a naturally talented woman who could express herself well with music, an entertainer who worked tirelessly. Kumagani gani - ndarwadziwa

LINCOLN MUSIMWA - 26 July 2013

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