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Originality placed Chiwoniso on world stage

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BY MONO MUKUNDU

LAST Saturday marked eight years since the passing on of Zimbabwean singer, songwriter and exponent of local mbira music Chiwoniso Maraire.

She was born on March 5 in 1976 and died on July 24, 2013.

Since I worked with her, one-time Zimbabwe Television (ZBC TV) crew passed by my studio and wanted to know how Chiwoniso managed to make it on the international stage.

My “monosophical” answer was: “She was born an original and did not die a copy of anyone.”

Ever since the dawn of the music business in Zimbabwe in the early 1930s, in every generation of musicians, we have always had those that harbour this belief that for one to reach international stardom one has to mimic other countries’ genres note for note.

But in every generation, only those that stuck to the Zimbabwean sound managed to make true international breakthroughs, others faked it, or over celebrated small gains.

I have travelled the world over and played on dozens of international festivals and discovered that nothing sells more than originality.

But sadly, history keeps repeating itself and we still have people who believe that imitation and mimicry is growth that is why we now have so many Zim-Nigerians.

They turn a blind eye to the evidence of failure left by devotees of this belief and choose to trust “moto wemapepa” hype and unproven sweet-sounding theories created by people who have both an illusion of knowledge and the confidence to scream it out.

Do I mean that everybody should play sungura and mbira?

No, just like Illanga, Matthew “Mateo” Kaunda, Mokoomba and a few others created unique new Zimbabwean genres, or home-grown fusions, or just as Americans copied and modified the Jamaican dancehall concept and created hip-hop.

Or even “Zimbabweanise” the music just like how Lucky Dube owned reggae by South Africanising and Mbaqangarising it, the same way Zig-Zag band did, but was cut short by the death of band members.

It can still be done if we don’t spend all our energy being direct, not to focus on cheaper parrot versions of other nationalities.

The superior man seeks what is in himself (yet) the weak man seeks what others have — unknown.

Rest in piece Sister Chi.

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