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Chiwoniso Maraire (« Chiwoniso »)

Chanteur/euse, Percussionniste


Chiwoniso Maraire (connue sous le nom d’artiste de « Chiwoniso ») (5 mars 1976 – 24 juillet 2013) était une chanteuse zimbabwéenne qui a diffusé la musique mbira. Elle était la fille du grand joueur et enseignant de mbira zimbabwéen Dumisani Maraire.

Sa vie de musicienne, Chiwoniso Maraire l’a passée d’abord aux Etats-Unis où elle est née en 1976 (Olympia, Washington) alors que son père y séjournait pour enseigner la musique traditionnelle et la mbira dans l’Université de l’État de Washington.

En tournant avec le groupe d’Andy Brown, Chiwoniso développe ses dons musicaux et atteint une maturité comme chanteuse mais également comme percussionniste et interprète de la mbira. Talentueuse et pleine de promesses. A son interprétation traditionnelle shona de la mbira, qui lui est innée, s’ajoute un style qui lui est propre, mélodieux et sensuel qui unit passé, présent et avenir.

Elle a obtenu le prix RFI musique en 1998.

Chiwoniso est décédée le 24 juillet 2013 d’une pneumonie.


Chiwoniso Maraire (known as « Chiwoniso ») (5 March 1976 – 24 July 2013) was a Zimbabwean singer, songwriter, and exponent of Zimbabwean mbira music.

She is the daughter of Dumisani Maraire, a Zimbabwean musician (mbira player) and teacher, who taught for decades at the University of Washington. Although she was born in Washington state, she spent a good part of her adolescence in Zimbabwe where she was exposed to African musical traditions of the Shona.
Chiwoniso learned how to play the African mbira despite the fact that traditionally, women in Zimbabwe were not permitted to play the instrument. The consistent rhythm of the tonal pluckings of the mbira provide a very authentic background to Chiwoniso’s songs of her people.


Chiwoniso Maraire was born in Olympia, Washington in 1976. Her father, ethnomusicologist Dumisani Maraire, taught marimba and mbira in America between 1972 and 1990, and was a renowned stage performer along with her mother, Linda Nemarundwe Maraire. »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 » remembers Chiwoniso.

By the age of 11 she was performing with Dumi & Minanzi 3, her father’s marimba band based in Seattle, and by 14 she was performing mbira and singing in the family quartet Mhuri yaMaraire along with her sister Tawona, brother Ziyanai and their father. Mhuri yaMaraire released a cassette/album, « Imwi Baba », in 1990. Later in the same year Chiwoniso’s family relocated to Zimbabwe. She went on to enroll as a student at Mutare Girls High School where she sang in and sometimes conducted her house choir. In 1991 Chiwoniso met Herbert Schwamborne and Tony Chihota whilst on school holiday in Harare. The two young boys had formed a powerful duo rapping and making hip-hop music; they called themselves A Peace of Ebony. After hearing her sing, beat-box and freestyle some rap during a freestyle clash one afternoon they asked her to join A Peace of Ebony (P.O.E) as its first girl member, and she agreed. P.O.E, whose members were a mixture of Zimbabwean, German, American, Russian and Malawian ethnic back-grounds, were a group which redefined the essence of international African rap. Composing their lyrics in English and Shona, they used both synthesized and natural sounds of the mbira and marimba at the core of most of their recordings. Chiwoniso, Herbert and Tony recorded the cd « From The Native Tongue » in 1992 in Keith Farquhuarson’s studio, with Keith lending his honed production skills to the recording. In the same year the four of them worked on a song for the Zimbabwean teenage hit movie « More Time » produced by Media For Development Trust.

In 1994 the director of the Alliance Francaise in Harare suggested to P.O.E that they enter the Radio France International contest, ?’Les Découvertes ». P.O.E.’s entry « Vadzimu », a song they composed specifically for the competition, was a potent mixture of the Shona, English and French languages riding over a heavy mbira-laced hip-hop rhythm. There were now two additional members in the group, Tendai Vicki and George Phiri, with Karen Stally joining in as an additional singer whenever she was free to. « Vadzimu » won P.O.E. the ?Best New Group out of Southern Africa’ award, which led to the group traveling to Madagascar where they performed in Antananarive at the finals of « Les Decouvertes. » P.O.E came third out of the many groups that showcased their art that year; a great achievement as they were also the youngest.

A Peace of Ebony parted ways after returning from Madagascar, but have remained devoted friends.

The following year Chiwoniso was contacted by the Paris-based recording company LusAfrica Sarl. Impressed by the performance A Peace of Ebony had staged in Antananarive, LusAfrica offered Chiwoniso a contract to record her first solo CD after learning that P.O.E. were no longer together. By this time Chiwoniso was a fulltime member of the then powerful Zimbabwean group Andy Brown & The Storm and had been composing serious music with them. She signed a contract with LusAfrica and the recording work for her cd « Ancient Voices » began with members of The Storm in 1995. Chiwoniso and Keith Farquhuarson had continued working together after the split of A Peace of Ebony, recording and producing jingles together occasionally for radio and television. Keith had introduced Chiwoniso to Andy Brown and was playing keyboard in the band. After the recording work of Ancient Voices was complete, Keith flew with the cd to France to do the final mix with Francois Post. In the same year Chiwoniso was invited to be part of a multi-national youth artists’ group called Talent’95. Talent’95 was made up of young musicians from Norway, Zimbabwe, Egypt, India and South Africa. Together they traveled Norway, Egypt and Zimbabwe.

« Ancient Voices » was a tremendous success and brought critical acclaim to Zimbabwean mbira music. Of note was Chiwoniso’s ability to flawlessly interweave English and Shona, an ability that has become a strong signature in her work. « Ancient Voices » was released in 1996 and won the RFI ?Best New Artist’ award in 1997.

In 1999 Chiwoniso fronted the members of The Storm at the MASA festival in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, where the band’s performance won them the U.N.E.S.C.O. Price for Arts. In the same year, she was a nominee in the « Best Female Vocals of Africa » category of the KORA Awards. In 2001 Chiwoniso left Andy Brown & The Storm to concentrate on her solo career.


Chiwoniso has been fronting her acoustic group Chiwoniso & Vibe Culture for the past four 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. Chiwoniso has also been busy 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.

Her musical collaborations have included recording with Marie Boine, Brilliant, Kris Kristoffersen and Sinead O’Connor on the cd celebrating the 100th commemoration of the Nobel Peace Prize Awards, composing and performing for the UNDP Africa 2015 song project « Les Tams-Tams de l’Afrique » alongside Salif Keita, Habib Koite (Mali), Ishmael Lo, Youssou Ndour, Manu Dibango, Baaba Maal (Senegal), Achieng Abura (Kenya), Saintrick and Koffi Olomide(Congo). She contributed to the « Women Care » cd recorded last year along with women artists from other African countries and from Norway.

She has done a huge amount of session work through the years, working with artists from around the world in greatly diverse styles. Chiwoniso last year released her second solo cd, « Timeless », with her group Vibe Culture.She is also a member of the newly formed Zimbabwean group ATOM, and they have recently completed recording their first cd, « Hupenyu Kumusha »

Maraire died on 24 July 2013. 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 pair leave two children.

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