Renowned Zimbabwean Musician Chiwoniso Maraire Dies at 37

Chiwoniso - Photo by Walter Murray
Chiwoniso – Photo by Walter Murray
One of Zimbabwe’s most respected artists, mbira musician and vocalist Chiwoniso Maraire died on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 at South Medical Centre in Chitungwiza, a town south of Zimbabwe’s capital. Chiwoniso had been hospitalized for the past ten days suffering from chest pains and a lung infection. Although the cause of death has not been determined yet, pneumonia is suspected. She was 37 years old.

Chiwoniso was a groundbreaking artist. Her music crossed musical borders, blending traditional music with blues, jazz, pop, hip hop and reggae. Chiwoniso was one of the first female mbira performers. Her mbira style was fresh and innovative.

Chiwoniso Maraire was born March 5, 1976 in Olympia, Washington (United States), where her famous father Dumisani Maraire lived and taught traditional Shona music between 1972 and 1990, and was a renowned stage performer along with her mother, Linda Nemarundwe Maraire.

Chiwoniso spent most of her adolescence in both Zimbabwe and the United States. “Musical instruments were a core element of my childhood. By the age of four I was playing mbira; Tichazomuona, my first recording with my parents, was released when I was nine,” remembered Chiwoniso.

Chiwoniso - Photo by Taurai Maduna
Chiwoniso – Photo by Taurai Maduna
In 1991 Chiwoniso formed Zimbabwe’s A Peace of Ebony. They recorded an album titled From The Native Tongue. The group won the Best New Group out of Southern Africa award in the Radio France International Discovery contest. A track from the album, ‘Vadzimu’ appears on the Putumayo ‘African Grooves’ compilation.

The success with A Piece of Ebony, led her to join Zimbabwe’s leading band, Andy Brown and The Storm. At the same time, Chiwoniso continued to write her own music, and performed alongside other artists with the support of The Storm. She also embarked on the 2 year General Certificate in music course with the Zimbabwe College of Music and studied sociology as well.

Chiwoniso recorded a first solo CD, Ancient Voices that won the International Discovery Competition (Decouverte Afrique 98) award presented by R.F.I. (Radio France International) and the French Foreign Office. Ancient Voices was a tremendous success and brought critical acclaim to the young musician.

Chiwoniso fronted her acoustic group Chiwoniso & Vibe Culture for several years. From 2001 to 2004, she was also a core member of the multinational all-women’s band Women’s Voice, whose original members hailed from Norway, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, America, Israel and Algeria.

In September 2008, Chiwoniso released her fourth album and first international album in over ten years, Rebel Woman on the Cumbancha label.

She is survived by her two children, Chengeto and Chiedza.

Read more about her biography and discography at Chiwoniso Maraire

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


3 thoughts on “Renowned Zimbabwean Musician Chiwoniso Maraire Dies at 37”

  1. May her LIfe’s Work preceed her Passing Away. Through Music; we may ALL live on forever. I am grateful to our Creator for giving her such a dedicated passion….while leaving room for normal life occurences such as love and childbirth. May her children find comfort through the worst of their pain….through the Life Work of their mother – which included her CHOICE to give them Life.

  2. Am truly saddened. Can’t still explain how I missed her show in Harare last year; have only myself to blame.
    There is a void in my heart which is delightlfully filled with the richness of your spirit. At such an age, I can’t stop thinking of Marechera…I will pray that your children remain in the kind hearts of our people.

  3. Am heartbroken. How can she die at such at young age. She was at the same school with my sis, she will not believe it when i tell her. Rest in peace my sister. Listened to your song usacheme just now. You were a star.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *