Zim remembers Chiwoniso

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Maxwell Sibanda
and Vasco Chaya

ZIMBABWEANS from all walks of life yesterday celebrated the life of the late Mbira Queen Chiwoniso Maraire who died in 2013.

Others took to social media where they recounted the moments they shared with the legendary mbira player and hugely gifted singer.


The United States of America Embassy in Zimbabwe described Maraire as a multi-talented artist. “Today (yesterday) we honour the life of the Mbira Queen Chiwoniso Maraire who passed away on this day seven years ago. Sister Chi, as she was affectionately known, recorded her first album when she was nine years old.
“Born in the United States on March 5, 1976, Chiwoniso was famous for modernising the traditional mbira instrument.
“She first fused the mbira sound with modern beats as a member of the Afro-fusion hip-hop trio, A Peace of Ebony,” reads part of the statement by the embassy.
“A multi-talented artist, Chiwoniso also starred in films, entering acting after having worked on film soundtracks with an array of Zimbabwean writers and producers. Before fronting her own band, Vibe Culture, Chiwoniso worked with one of Zimbabwe’s best guitarists, Andy Brown and Band Storm.
“She won the prestigious award Decouverte Afrique sponsored by Radio France International after releasing her debut album Ancient Voices in 1998. The album entered the World Music Charts in Europe three times and brought her a nomination in the category of Best Female Vocals of Africa for the Kora Awards in 1999.”
Singer Okay Machisa said yesterday was a special day to reckon with especially as he had worked with Chi closely locally, regionally and internationally. “She remains a fundamental source of inspiration not only to me and my family but to a number of all those artists whose products follow the footsteps of Chi.
“She was indeed a woman of courage, visionary and exceptional talent in Zimbabwean, African traditional and contemporary music. Chi brought in the Zimbabwean music sector a sense of respect to mbira music and most importantly a deep understanding and patriotism to our Zimbabwean traditional music.
“Her legacy should motivate all those artists and musicians who would want to pursue mbira music and essentially protect the genre throughout the generations to come.”
Radio and television personality Themba Mkandla said Chi was a rare gem. “Her angelic voice will take a while to be matched, a song writer par excellence who will be very difficult to replace. We will forever cherish our moments with her and her music will continue to be played for decades to come. Continue to rest in eternal peace Chi.”
Gallery curator Raphael Chikukwa said Chi left us too early but her work will be with us forever. “We will always remember her through her powerful voice and music she produced for all of us and those across the waters. I knew her personally and you know there is a mural in the gallery of her portrait.”
Singer and Jenaguru Arts Centre director Clive Malunga said “I miss her very much. We lost a music star. She had all what it takes to be a music star. Chiwoniso was very beautiful, gifted with an amazing voice, great composer and a polished mbira player. I worked with sister Chi, on the song Marijata.
“Chi and Prudence Katomeni did my backing vocals. We, as Jenaguru, will also honour her with the purchase of a tombstone, after Biggie Tembo and Tinei Chikupo. May her soul rest in peace; she was not supposed to die at that tender age.”
Music producer Mono Mkundu said Chi was one of the best bosses he ever worked for. “The only artist aikuwedzera mari from yamakataurirana; the only artist in Zimbabwe who was secure enough to encourage band members to sing their own songs at her gig.”
United Kingdom-based bassist Edith WeUtonga had a special word for Chi: “I used to brace myself for the nonstop kisses (took some getting used to!), look forward to some laughter, creativity and the quiet moments too. My last pictures of you my sister, you held our son and made an affirmation of health.
“One of your last moments on stage was for a good cause, for our son. I celebrate you today, and remember you and the gift of love you gave freely and without reservation.”
Musician Faith Candy said Chi left a huge gap in the music industry. “Chiwoniso will remain a music icon, not just in Zimbabwe but the world at large. She is still our mbira queen and we are still inspired by her works. May her soul continue to rest in peace.”
United Kingdom playwright and Mambokadzi Dance Group founder Enisia Mashusha concurred with Candy saying Maraire’s works will inspire generations to come. “She was amazing and talented beyond measure.  She will be remembered for her mbira playing skills and a lovely voice. Her works will inspire generations to come. God always takes the best; we will keep missing her on the stage. May she continue to rest in peace.”
Marabi musician Kireni Zulu said Chi was a torchbearer in the music industry. “She loved her traditional instrument, mbira which is unique. She was not ashamed of her culture and we are looking forward to a generation of musicians who are equally original and eager to defend their culture through arts.”
Mbira musician Simba the Lion, Andy Muridzo’s former manager said Maraire was a giant of the industry. “She inspired most of the upcoming mbira musicians. The instrument was regarded as too traditional but because of her, people are now in love with it. We respect her courage as young musician.”

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