A Zimbabwean icon passed away yesterday. Mbira musician Chiwoniso Maraire aged 37 died yesterday from a lung infection, and I’m absolutely gutted. Her music to me was an inspiration and she was a joy to watch live.
I wanted to profile her as a dreadlocked hair icon later on, but I’ve decided to profile her now in celebration of her life at her passing.
Chiwoniso Maraire was born in 1976 in exile in Olympia, Washington in the US. Her Zimbabwean parents, Dumisani and Linda Maraire were both musicians. Her father, ethnomusicologist Dumisani Maraire, taught marimba and mbira in America between 1972 and 1990. Chiwoniso started singing and playing the mbira at a very young age. Her family relocated after independence to Zimbabwe in 1990, where Chiwoniso attended high school. She was a member of a hip hop oriented ensemble, A Peace of Ebony, which won a number of contests and “Rebel Woman,” one of her songs finished second in an international song writing contest that had over 1500 entries.
In the mid-1990s she became a full-time member of the Zimbabwean group Andy Brown & The Storm. In 1999, she was a nominee in the “Best Female Vocals of Africa” category of the KORA Awards. Chiwoniso left Andy Brown & The Storm to concentrate on her solo career in 2001.
For the last fewyears, she has been working with her own band, Vibe Culture. Her last album, Rebel Woman, is a mixture of traditional Shona musical styles using traditional instruments and modern African dance music.
Chiwoniso created a music that reflects life as it happens in her experiences and yet remain rooted in her culture.
Dreadlocked Zimbabweans, like other nationalities, get dreadlocks for religious reasons, as a fashion statement or the apparent convenience. Chiwoniso Maraire wore dreadlocks as part and parcel of the traditional African culture celebrated through music.
Famba zvakanaka Chiwoniso, tichazokuona….