[  African Jazz, Hip Hop Kwaito Reggae & more...  ] 12 April 2024   SA Time:     
  Back to Artist A-Z A-Z Popup

Print Print version
Maraire, Chiwoniso  (Chiwoniso) (Zimbabwe)  
Chiwoniso © E. Arries

WHILE Zimbabwe's ancient musical traditions serve as the foundation of Chiwoniso's music, she is the child of a globalized world and her songs reflect her diverse, multicultural influences. Her late father, Dumisani Maraire was a respected scholar and musician, who moved the family to the United States in the 1970s while pursuing a degree in Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington in Seattle. Chiwoniso was born in Olympia, Washington in 1976, and although she spent the first seven years of her life away from Zimbabwe, the music of her family's homeland was a constant presence.

"I was born into a very musical family, both my parents were musicians," Chiwoniso points out. "My father was an amazing mbira player, my mother was a beautiful singer, so I was surrounded by this music from the day I was conceived, really, because they used to teach classes in the house as well. But at the same time they loved to listen to other people, so I grew up exposed to James Brown, Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Bach, Mozart, you name it, it was being played."

In this dynamic home environment Chiwoniso was playing mbira by the age of four. Her first studio recording was at the age of nine with her parents, for an album called 'Tichazomuwona' (We Shall See You), dedicated to her late uncle, Dr Nkosana Arthur Maraire. By the age of eleven Chiwoniso was performing with her father and siblings in their family mbira group 'Mhuri yaMaraire' (The Maraire Family). She was also a musician in her father's explosive marimba group 'Minanzi III' (Musical Sounds 3).

vocals, Mbira
Genre: traditional / indigenous, African
While Chiwoniso's musical influences range from soul and R&B to reggae and rock, the entrancing sounds of the mbira serve as a central underpinning. Originating in the ancient Shona civilization of southern Africa, the mbira is a musical instrument made of metal tines attached to a wooden board. The player plucks the tines with their thumbs to create captivating interlocking melodies, which have accompanied ceremonies and celebrations for countless generations. While variations of the mbira exist across Africa, it is an essential element of Zimbabwean music tradition and has a deep historical, cultural and spiritual symbolism.

In 1990, Chiwoniso's family made their second move back to Zimbabwe, and she quickly became a popular figure in the local music scene thanks to her role as lead vocalist for A Peace of Ebony, the country's first hip-hop group. Along with the group's founders, Herbert Schwamborne and Tony Chihota, and fellow members George Phiri and Tendai Viki, A Peace of Ebony created a new sound mixing rap and Zimbabwean ethnic-influenced melodies. This was when Chiwoniso and Keith Farquharson first met. In 1997, she released her debut solo album, Ancient Voices, which was warmly received and earned her the prestigious Radio France International "Best New Artist" award. While she was developing her solo career, Chiwoniso also toured and recorded with the powerful Zimbabwean group Andy Brown and The Storm.

In 1996 and 1999 Chiwoniso gave birth to her daughters Chengeto and Chiedza. Her decision to focus on raising her children saw her choose to step out of the active international scene for some years. Instead she did recordings for world-awareness groups including CARE, UNDP, The Nobel Peace and worked with other artists who were striking out in new directions musically. The groups included Women's Voice, brought together by Malika Makouff-Rasmussen, and The Collaboration, a band that drew together some of the leading Zimbabwean artists, including Adam Chisvo, Busi Ncube, Charlie Summerfield, William Hillman, Roger Mbambo and Peter Mashasha.

With her feet back on the ground and revitalized creative energy, Chiwoniso spent three years working with producer Keith Farquharson on her new album Rebel Woman. Recorded in Zimbabwe, South Africa, England and Vermont (where record label Cumbancha and its partner company Charles Eller Studios are based), the album features some of southern Africa's most respected musicians and an intriguing collection of guests. Louis Mhlanga provides the albums tasty guitar licks. Zimbabwean Drummer Sam Mataure, a veteran of Oliver Mtukudzi's band, lays down his trademark rock solid rhythms, while saxophonist/flautist Steve Dyer guides a crack horn section. Meanwhile, members of Cumbancha’s extended family, such as Idan Raichel Project percussionist Rony Irwyn, Belizean producer/guitarist Ivan Duran and keyboardist Charles Eller lent their services for cameo appearances.

The result is an appealing collection of songs that range from the soothing, unadorned mbira and voices of "Pamuromo" to the rousing, celebratory dance beats of "Gomo."

The album's title track, "Rebel Woman," takes inspiration from a poem about the role of women in Zimbabwe's war for independence. "The song is about the physical conditions of fighting, and the price people pay," she explains, but it is also a tribute to strong women who suffer because they do not follow the restrictions society tries to place on them. "The truth is that when you're a strong woman you might lose our husband, your home, because the way the systems are structured you're not allowed to be strong as a women, unless you follow the rules. This is a song about changing those rules."

Chiwoniso © E. Arries
The song serves as a moving epilogue to a masterful album and confirms that Chiwoniso will continue to speak out on issues important to her, regardless of the consequences. Recognizing that artists play a special role in society, she believes they must not be afraid to speak out against injustice. "We have a responsibility. We are not bankers, we are not doctors, we are not nurses. We have another part that we play in society that must be done. So, regardless of whatever world system is going to come in and say: 'Cut what you are saying,' going to send riot cops in to your shows, going to come and arrest you and say 'We are going to try and put you in jail...' — it doesn't matter. We have a responsibility."

This biography is edited from the text as provided by Chiwoniso’s record label, Cumbancha.

Contact Details:

For further information, please visit

Visit Chiwoniso website


South African bookings contact:
Making Music Productions
+ 27 21 422 0118

Booking Agent (US & Canada):
Mel Puljic
Mondo Mundo Agency,

Booking Agent (Europe):
Marion von Gaudecker

Cristihan Gutterre
  Recordings : Maraire, Chiwoniso (Chiwoniso)
Rebel Woman


Chiwoniso - Timeless
Ancient Voices

Chiwoniso - Ancient Voices

click here for more about these and other recordings by : Maraire, Chiwoniso

See copyright & usage and about for further details.

Subscribe Unsubscribe