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Mbira icon Chisvo dies

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Mbira maestro and versatile musician Adam Chisvo has died. He was aged 48.

Chisvo’s wife Priscilla told NewsDay that the popular mbira player succumbed to diabetes at Harare Hospital yesterday morning.

He released an 11-track album titled Famba Pore Pore in 2009, but his most outstanding contributions to the music industry were as a backing mbira and konga player as well as a session musician at numerous live concerts.

He worked with Chiwoniso Maraire, Andy Brown, Ilanga, Oliver Mtukudzi, Victor Kunonga, Taku Mafika, Willom Tight, Charles Summerfield and Busi Ncube among many others.

“He was a real pillar in the local music industry. We’ve lost a giant. That’s what I can say. Adam worked with a lot of people. We’ve lost so much. He did a lot both locally and outside our borders. He was a great person; he was always willing to impart his knowledge, experience and skills to the upcoming generation. He will surely be missed,” said Afro-jazz musician Victor Kunonga, who has been working with Chisvo for the past five years.

“From his early days with Ilanga up until today, Adam was always willing to work with everyone, including half of the musicians that make up the industry in Zimbabwe today.”

Chiwoniso was at loss of words when contacted for comment yesterday and could not gather the energy to utter something about her long-time music partner. She was so distraught.

“This is really shocking news to me. Chisvo was a good friend and uncle, but most importantly, a mentor to many of us young artists in the music industry. He was always willing to share knowledge and even learn despite the difference in our ages.
We have really lost another fountain of knowledge,” said Taku Mafika, a talented mbira player.

“He was a very soft-hearted man. He carried himself with so much humility, he was a great artist who never liked outshining his juniors even if he could, it’s a huge loss to the industry,” said Novell Zwangendaba, a local arts journalist.

As Zimbojam notes in one of Chisvo’s profiles, from his early experiences with Ilanga, through to his long-term association with Brown and the Storm, and leading into his succesful partnership with Chiwoniso, he provided the essential backbone to legendary musical groups.

Chisvo’s exploits in the local music industry, particularly his refining of how the mbira instrument is played, certainly qualify him as a hero and an icon of our times.

He is credited with taking mbira to a new level, experimenting with the instrument and giving it a new lease of life outside its traditional and spiritual parameters.

Apart from his music, Chisvo will be remembered for his easy-going nature and affability. He was never short of a smile.

He is survived by his wife and three sons. Mourners are gathered at number 46 Chatima Road in Mbare.

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