The songbird still sings

She has so many prizes to her credit. Chiwoniso Maraire just enough international and national exposure to keep the world interested we all watched her emerge from the ashes of her marriage with astounding dignity. She is Chiwoniso Maraire.

Fondly known as Chi, to her many fans and friends, Chiwoniso was born and bread in Seattle, Washington, in the United States of America. Her talent for singing, as she plays the mbira, was gently nurtured by her late father Dr. Maraire.

She only started performing with her father in her early teens, during the school holidays. Her father felt at that point that he would entertain family at gatherings such as weddings and other social events with the young Chiwoniso.

Later much later, the young lady joined a group called Piece of Ebony with two young men of a similar background to hers. They produced many hit songs.

One notable one was The Native Tongue. This song received much airplay on Zimbabwean Radio Stations in the late 1980’s. Then she decided to go to greater heights having grown as much as she could as an Artiste. Chiwoniso joined Andy Brown and The Storm.

Eventually these two became an item, married and had two daughters together.

Sadly the marriage failed. At that time Chiwoniso suffered bereavement in her family.

Her father, her brother and her mother died. The barrage of magazine and newspaper reports of her marriage breaking

Was very difficult to bear.

It seemed that all the news about her was about her floundering relationship

With her ex-husband and little was said about her work. She bore it all with dignity and one memorable reply she gave to questions on her private life was to convey one fact, that sadly the marriage was over and that they had two beautiful children during that marriage.

Round about that time Chiwoniso began a solo career with Vibe Culture. She has done very well and performs once weekly at the Mannenberg in Harare.

She still plays at functions, travels and has accepted invitations to perform at Fairs and Festivals both in Africa and Europe.

Many a art critic have thought long and hard about comparing her to Ambuya Stella Chiweshe but have realized that these two have the instruments of vocal chords and mbira in common and more.

Their music transcends mere commentary on social issues and politics. Chiwoniso’s voice is piercingly sweet and youthful and the more dramatic and compelling for being so.

Ambuya Stella on the other hand lends dignity and sobriety to any subject. The younger musician’s strength is that she can lend her remarkable sense of humour to the most jaded individual in the audience and she sings in both Shona and English.

But more and more most critics have come to understand that there is no comparison between the two. They bring different feeling into mbira music. Feeling that is as divergent as their backgrounds.

Her latest album “Rebel Woman” deals in intimate detail with what the Zimbabwean woman faces everyday.

This year at HIFA, Harare International Festival of The Arts, we saw a hidden talent in Chiwoniso as she acted in the play “Kumusha” with a multi-racial cast. “It was most entertaining

I had no idea she had it in her,” commented a longtime fan. Chiwoniso works hard for every prize and accolade she receives.

Those are many, but most recently for her latest album Rebel Woman won her

Second prize in the 2005 International Song Writing Competition. Out of 15 000 entries from 82 countries. Along with the prize came US$2000 and prizes worth US$1000.

“She also benefits from a multinational campaign designed to give international exposure and attention to her song writing skills”, The Mirror, Zimbabwe.

Chiwoniso is currently working on a studio project which features top Zimbabwean Musicians such as Steve Dyer, Louis Mhlanga and Sam Mataure. All her fans wait patiently for the Songbird still sings.

July 2006
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