Chiwoniso inspires from the grave

HARARE - The late mbira queen, Chiwoniso Maraire’s music continues to inspire even in death, with a Japanese music band revealing that they have been inspired by her music before they even knew who she was.

Lead singer of Iyco and Kaka Furaha, Iyco, said she bought Maraire’s music at an African music corner shop in Japan and developed the “J-African” music,  which is a fusion of African music and Japanese pop.

“I did not know that she was a Zimbabwean musician. I found out that Chiwoniso and another artiste (whom I liked) were from Zimbabwe. And when I found out on my first trip to Zimbabwe I was excited, it felt like destiny,” Iyco said, speaking through an interpreter.

“Japanese can pretend to be African so she wants to be a bridge between Japan and Africa. So the CD corner introducing African music in Japan, there is a market in Japan for African music.”

The band’s Africa manager,  Tavonga Mafundikwa said Iyco wanted to do collaborations with Chiwoniso before she knew the Zimbabwean musician had passed on.

“She once told me when she went to the African music CD corner shop, where she bumped into CDs of Netsai and Chiwoniso, she got really interested when she listened to Chiwoniso’s music. When she found out that Chiwoniso was Zimbabwean, she really felt she wanted to do something with her, but unfortunately Chiwoniso had passed on,” Mafundikwa said.

The band is in the country as part of culture exchange agreement between Zimbabwe and Japan.

The group, which is here for the fourth time has performed twice at the Harare International Festival of Arts (Hifa) and shared the stage with music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi singing a rendition of Neria. Yesterday (Monday), the group was expected to perform in Harare at City Sports Bar’s weekly musical showcase Jam Session alongside Madiz, James Nyamande, BV Labien, Biggie and Eriya Tembo among others.

When former president Robert Mugabe visited Japan in 2016, the East Asian country’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to increase Japan’s presence through culture exchange, and their presence in Zimbabwe is part of that culture exchange.

“One interesting thing about the band is they have taken an interest in learning our language and they sing fluently in Shona. They have also done some collaboration in Shona as well,” Mafundikwa said.

The band is not the only one who have been influenced by Chiwoniso as pan-African singer songwriter Mae Sithole paid tribute to the late musician during her performance at the just-ended 18th Hifa as she revealed that she had been one of her mentors.

“This is a tribute to Chiwoniso Maraire who was one of my first vocal coaches when I was at primary and when there was Chipawo, is it still there?” she said before emotionally singing Chiwoniso’s hit Ivai Nesu.

Maraire died at the age of 37 in 2013, but her career had and still inspires other musicians.

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