I JUST had to pen something about this mbira maestro Chiwoniso Maraire.
OBITUARY BY ROPAFADZO MAPIMHIDZE
Watch the NewsDay ‘Tribute to Chiwoniso’ video below featuring interviews on the life and times of the mbira icon :
For today, I mourn one of Zimbabwe’s greatest women who popularised the mbira instrument. She has died hardly a year following her ex-husband’s death, another great singer and music composer, Andy Brown, who passed away in March last year.
I got to know Chiwoniso through her father, the late Dumisani Maraire, who was an officer in the Ministry of Sports and Culture in the early 80s. During that time, I was attached to the Ministry of Sports and Culture as an information officer under former Minister Nathan Shamuyarira.
Affectionately known as Chichi, Dumi was very proud of his daughter, who strangely spoke her mother tongue with a very deep chiManyika accent despite being born in the United States.
Thanks to her dad who was a hardcore traditionalist who upheld his cultural values which also saturated through her music.
She lived in truly Zimbabwean style and this was expressed in her lyrics. She was deeply rooted in Zimbabwe’s culture.
There are so many people that were born outside Zimbabwe and chose to stay in those countries. That was not the case with the Maraire family. Dumi instilled Zimbabwean culture into his children, something most people in the Diaspora have failed to do.
The last time I met Chichi was when she played at the Community Builders awards organised by Alpha Media Holdings, the company that publishes NewsDay, in December last year.
She gave me that infectious smile of hers as I took a close-up picture of her with my camera as she fingered her mbira instrument.
She was full of life, had a bright future, was a great music ambassador and no doubt a legend in that music genre. Her father was the one who introduced her to playing marimba and mbira, but she was to settle for the latter which she once described, in earlier interviews, as having a healing and soothing effect on her.
Every time Dumi opened his his mouth, he would mention Chiwoniso. He was proud of her.
When Chichi’s mum died, it was devastating for her family and Chichi penned a song in her memory titled Mai Fambai Zvakanaka, one of her hit tracks on the album Ancient Voices.
When she fell pregnant and married Andy Brown, Dumi expressed his dissatisfaction about their relationship.
But he said it was difficult to separate the two as they had so much in common. Brown’s musical lyrics were basically Shona, with a Karanga accent and she became a backing vocalist.
Chichi did much collaboration with Brown and fans of this couple can testify that their voices blended so well. When Chichi’s marriage with Brown failed, they remained friends, but she always said she was the number one fan of her ex-husband.
When he passed on, Chichi cancelled her weekend performances in honour of her late ex-husband, who also died from a similar illness. She was so devastated by his death because he too had mentored her to become an internationally-acclaimed artiste.
They had two children together – Chengeto and Chiedza. Recently, Andersen Mamimine, told me in an interview how Chichi had housed him at her Bluf Hill home for nearly nine months.
Mamimine said he attributed his success to her as she kept on encouraging him to realise his dream. Mamimine, who sings with his Positive Living Choir, was the first runner-up in the Africa Health award sponsored by Voice of America.
Chichi was recognised and won a 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 Europe three times and brought her a nomination in the category of Best Female Vocals of Africa for the Kora Awards in 1999. The social media is awash with condolence messages from all over the world.
Rest in peace.
“..Reach out to those around you, because it is about love..and you let your tears flow and mingle with the dust- peace settles in your heart..because it is about trust.” Chiwoniso Maraire in Everyone’s Child
Meanwhile, tributes continued to pour as the nation plunged into mourning. Click here to read the story