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Chiwoniso Maraire: Legend gone too soon

Updated on July 25, 2013

Chiwonise Maraire Ancient voices

Chiwoniso on the cover of Jewel magazine


Chiwonise was born in Olympia USA in 1976. What made Chioniso standout as an artist was her love for the mbira instrument which she somehow managed to merge with her music to make it sound modern and exotic. Her father Dumisani Maraire was a mbira player and teacher so from an early age her love for the mbira instrument was born. Although traditionally in the Shona culture women were not allowed to play the instrument Chiwonise fell in love and started playing a type of mbira called the nyunga-nyunga which means sparkle. In an interview Chioniso was asked what music meant to her and she said music was her life it was like drinking water and I think for most people they can agree that when you listen to her music you could feel her passion and her words always had a way of touching people's hearts. Most Zimbabwean artists today have moved towards modern instruments and sounds which is good because change is always good, Chiwonise however managed to merge her Shona culture with her modern music to produce something that sounds very unique. When the instrument starts it just has the effect of warming your heart and her haunting voice had the ability to pierce your soul. Chiwoniso was one lady who was proud of her African heritage and her music and manners reflected exactly that.

The mbira instrument

The mbira
The mbira | Source

The mbira

The mbira is a very simple instrument as shown above it is also know by many other names including the thumb piano. This instrument has been played by the African people for thousands of years and to this day it is still played on special occasions such as when paying homage to ancestors( kupira vadzimu) or during wakes. It has a unique sound and when played the right way produces such a beautiful sound. There aren't a lot of artists in Zimbabwe who use this instrument but some big names like Thomas Mapfumo and Chiwonise have consistently featured this instrument in their work.

Chiwoniso and Family


Her life, Her career

Chiwonise produced four albums in her career all of which had unique sounds with titles that included rebel woman and Ancient voices. Having spent seven years of her life living abroad her take on music has many different dimensions. She believed that people might not always listen to everything you say but music opens people's ears and hearts and allows an avenue for communication. Chiwonise as an artist had a heart for her people and spoke against brutality and violence. Chiwonise was once married to Andy Brown who was also a musician from Zimbabwe and had two children. Chiwonise died of a lung infection on the 24th of July, sad news indeed for the Zimbabwean community. We have lost a beautiful soul and talented singer rest in peace Chio.

Music by Chiwoniso

Chioniso Interview


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