Chiwoniso Maraire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Chiwoniso Maraire
Chiwoniso Maraire live

Chiwoniso Maraire (5 March 1976 – 24 July 2013) was a Zimbabwean singer, songwriter, and exponent of Zimbabwean mbira music. She was the daughter of Zimbabwean mbira master and teacher Dumisani Maraire[1] (and former officer in the Zimbabwe Ministry of Sports and Culture in the early 1980s).[2] Describing the mbira, an instrument traditionally used by male musicians,[3] she said, "It is like a large xylophone. It is everywhere in Africa under different names: sanza, kalimba, etc. For us in Zimbabwe it is the name for many string instruments. There are many kinds of mbiras. The one that I play is called the nyunga nyunga, which means sparkle-sparkle."[4]


Born in 1976 in Olympia, Washington, where her father had moved his family, The song bird spent the first seven years of her life in the US. She spent a portion of her high school years attending The Northwest School in Seattle, Washington. When she moved back to Zimbabwe she attended Mutare Girls' High School and took evening classes at the University of Zimbabwe, where her father was teaching.[5]

In the early 1990s, when she was 15, she formed part of the Afro-fusion hip-hop trio A Peace of Ebony, which "was perhaps the first group to fuse mbira with contemporary beats".[6] In 1996, she joined The Storm, a band led by guitarist Andy Brown (who later became her husband): "The Storm became one of Zimbabwe's biggest bands, touring the world and winning accolades.... Maraire's firm voice and Brown's plucky guitar made a beautiful combination."[6]

Chiwoniso fronted her acoustic group Chiwoniso & Vibe Culture for several years. Her first album, Ancient Voices, was released to international acclaim in 1995.[7] In 1998, she toured West Africa and Europe with fellow mbira player, Kurai Mubaiwa, serving as the opening act for Cape Verdean singer-songwriter Cesária Évora.[8][9]

Chiwoniso went on to record three more albums: Timeless (2004), Hupenyu Kumusha, Life at Home, Impilo Ekhaya. The Collaboration: Volume 1 (2006), and Rebel Woman (2008). From 2001 to 2004, she was also a core member of the multinational all-women band Women's Voice, whose original members hailed from Norway, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, the United States, Israel, and Algeria.[5] Chiwoniso also starred in film, having worked on the soundtracks for movies and documentaries by an array of Zimbabwean writers and film producers in the last ten years.[10] She made her last recording in March 2013, and "Zvichapera", a cover of Thomas Mapfumo's song, was released posthumously in 2015.[11]

Speaking out against police brutality[edit]

She said, "To beat people, to threaten people, to put a person in a situation where they have to think for the next five hours about whether or not they are going to be okay — is a very, very bad thing to do."[12]

Death and suicide of daughter[edit]

Maraire died on 24 July 2013 at South Medical Hospital in Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, aged 37.[13] According to her manager Cosmas Zamangwe, she had been admitted to hospital 10 days earlier suffering from chest pains.[14] The cause of death was the result of suspected pneumonia, just a year after the death of her ex-husband, Andy Brown, also a prominent musician. The couple left behind two daughters, Chengeto and Chiedza.[1][15][16] She was buried at her rural home in Chakohwa village in Mutambara.[17]

On September 12, 2015, the younger of her daughters, 15 year old Chiedza Brown, committed suicide.[18] Chiedza was also a musician in the Mbira tradition like her mother and an accomplished singer.[19][20] The last surviving member of Maraire's family with Andy Brown is her daughter, Chengeto, although Andy Brown had other children, the half-siblings of Maraire's daughters.[21]

Awards and honours[edit]

Chiwoniso was honoured by Radio France ("Decouverte Afrique") for her debut album, Ancient Voices (1998), and was nominated in the Kora All-Africa Music Awards for best female vocals of Africa in 1999.[6][15] The album entered the World Music Charts Europe three times.[6]



  • A Piece of Ebony: From the Native Tongue (1992)
  • Ancient Voices (1998)
  • Chiwoniso & Vibe Culture: Timeless (2004)
  • The Collaboration: Hupenyu Kumusha/Life at Home/Impilo Ekhaya. Volume 1 (2006)
  • Rebel Woman (2008)


  • "Zvichapera" (released posthumously 2015)


  • "Woman of the Well"[22]
  • "Return Great Spirit" (alternative version to the one on Timeless)

Also appears on[edit]

Featured by[edit]

  • Outspoken Tha Humble Neophyte: "The Heavens And The Skies"
  • Jah Prayzah: "Dande"


  • Women Care (2005) - "African Woman", "A Mother To Them All (African Woman 2)", "A Song For A Modern Woman"
  • Putumayo Kids: African Dreamland (2008) - "Usacheme"
  • Hear Globally: A Cumbancha Collection (2009) - "Vanorapa", "Woman of the Well"[23]
  • Listen To The Banned (2010) - "Rebel Woman"
  • Positive Generation (2011)[24] - "Galgal Hatzila (The Lifeline)" with David Broza and the Jimila Choir[25]


  1. ^ a b "Chiwoniso Maraire: Zimbabwe singer dies, 37". BBC News. 25 July 2013. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  2. ^ Ropafadzi Mapimhidze, "Multimedia: A tribute to Chiwoniso Maraire", NewsDay, 26 July 2013.
  3. ^ Robin Denselow, "Chiwoniso obituary", The Guardian, 26 July 2013.
  4. ^ Nouveau Africana
  5. ^ a b Innocent Ruwende, "Chiwoniso Maraire Dies", The Herald (Zimbabwe), 24 July 2013, AllAfrica.
  6. ^ a b c d Jason Moyo, "Chiwoniso Maraire: The mbira falls silent", Mail & Guardian, 27 July 2013.
  7. ^ "A life to celebrate: Chiwoniso Maraire (1976 – 2013)", Harare News, 25 July 2013.
  8. ^ Néo Géo Nova : le Live 25 ans de sono mondiale #42 : Chiwoniso & Vibe Culture en 1998 Radio Nova Podcast by Bintou Simporé Accessed online July 25, 2022
  9. ^ Zimbamoto Creative BC News Aug 14, 2021. Accessed online July 25, 2022
  10. ^ "Chiwoniso Official Website". Archived from the original on 2009-05-06. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
  11. ^ "Zvichapera, by Chiwoniso". Nyami Nyami Records. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  12. ^ "Chiwoniso speaks out against police brutality in Zimbabwe", Zimbabwe Metro.
  13. ^ "Singer Chiwoniso Maraire dies aged 37", Archived 2013-07-26 at the Wayback Machine New Zimbabwe, 24 July 2013.
  14. ^ "Chiwoniso Maraire - African Musician Chiwoniso Maraire Dies", Contactmusic, 25 July 2013.
  15. ^ a b Tatenda Gumbo, "Zimbabweans Pay Tribute to Late Mbira Maestro Chiwoniso", VOA Zimbabwe, 25 July 2013.
  16. ^ Violet Gonda, "Zimbabwe mbira queen Chiwoniso Maraire dies", SW Radio Africa, 26 July 2013. Replaced dead link with a archived copy of the page via the Internet Archive ( Wayback machine) July 24, 2015
  17. ^ "Chiwoniso laid to rest amid family feud", The Herald (Zimbabwe), 30 July 2013.
  18. ^ Chiedza Brown Orbituary & Funeral Arrangements published by THREE MEN ON A BOAT · 19 SEPTEMBER, 2015. Accessed online December 14, 2015
  19. ^ Andy Brown's daughter commits suicide Sep 13, 2015 Published online by Nehanda Radio. Accessed Online September 26, 2015
  20. ^ Maraire, Brown families seek privacy over Chiedza's death September 15, 2015 in Arts & Culture, Life and Style, NewsDay ZW September 15, 2015. Accessed onlined September 26, 2015
  21. ^ In Memoriam: Chiedza Zvondiwe Brown, December 13, 1999 - September 12, 2015 posted by the Slay Memorial Funeral Center. Accessed online December 14, 2015
  22. ^ Written by Keith Farquharson & Chiwoniso, recorded in 2005/2007, mixed in 2012. Louis Mhlanga guitar, Sam Mataure drums, Ian Hillman bass, Chiwoniso mbira & hosho, Keith Farquharson on piano and all other keys and programming.
  23. ^ "Hear Globally".
  24. ^ "Positive Generation". Archived from the original on 2016-08-23.
  25. ^ "HIV, Aids documentary set for release".

External links[edit]