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Zimbabwe mbira queen Chiwoniso Maraire dies
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
July 25, 2013

One of Zimbabwe’s most talented musicians, Chiwoniso Maraire died at the South Medical Hospital in Chitungwiza on Wednesday evening. She was 37.

An accomplished singer, songwriter and proponent of mbira music Chiwoniso crossed all musical borders inspiring young Zimbabweans to play the mbira in a more modern and contemporary way.

She collaborated with various musicians and artistes across the world. As well as producing several albums she also worked on soundtracks for movies and documentaries.

Above all, she was a revolutionary mbira player whose music touched the lives of millions of Zimbabweans. Chiwoniso’s former fiancé and business colleague, Farai Munro, told SW Radio Africa the singer had been in hospital for almost two weeks.

“She got throat problem. She had a sore throat and it got worse and worse… apparently the diagnosis I heard is that she passed away from a chronic case of pneumonia,” Munro said.

He said ‘Chi’, as she was affectionately known, was an inspiring and powerful force within the music fraternity. “Publically as an artist she should definitely go down in the history books as one of the legendary talents we have produced, alongside people like Thomas Mapfumo and Oliver Mtukudzi.”

He said she also had a deep social conscience and wasn’t in music just for the money. “Music for her was her career but she was always very conscious in her songs. She always made sure there were relevant social and political messages.”

Munro was in the middle of recording an album with Chiwoniso, which will be released next year. He said: “She broke boundaries. She just didn’t play mbira. She did so many different collaborations from hip-hop to jazz. There has been an outpouring of tributes for the much-loved songstress on social forums.

Arts and entertainment critic Professor Fred Zindi wrote on Facebook: “It is with a heavy heart and deep sorrow that I received the sad news of mbira music icon and musician, Chiwoniso Maraire’s death. She died on the 24th July, 2013 aged 37. Her death has robbed the music fraternity of a sincere, creative, innovative, serious and dedicated singer and performer who was instrumental in bringing Zimbabwean music to a higher level. Words cannot adequately express how I feel about the loss of such a talented musician and friend as nothing can describe the sadness and anguish that I am feeling. We offer our sympathy, prayers and compassion to her family and friends. Gone too soon, the loss of her life will impact on us forever. Mai Fambai Zvakanaka. Mai Tichazomuona!”

Trudy Stevenson, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Senegal, wrote on Facebook: “Devastated Chiwoniso Maraire! Spiritual voice of Zimbabwe we were hoping to bring her to Dakar Senegal to perform again with her friend & colleague Baaba Maal this year, to promote our beloved country. So happy Baaba Maal brought her onto stage HIFA2013 – as though it was already written.”

Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi tweeted: “Very promising and talented sister. Death is a painful robber. RIP, you wrote your legacy. Till we meet.”

Chiwoniso was the daughter of the late renowned Zimbabwean mbira player and teacher Dumisani Maraire. She leaves behind two daughters, Chengeta and Chiedza, who she had when she was married to legendary Zimbabwean singer Andy Brown who died last year.

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