Friends, family, fans and Harare’s music stars gathered last night at the Book Café to say farewell to beloved Mbira Queen, Chiwoniso Maraire. Chiwoniso, or simply “Chi” as she was known, passed away last Wednesday, 24 July, at the age of 37.
Shock and grief echoed around the world for the singer and mbira phenomenon who took this traditional instrument to new heights in Zimbabwe and around the world, revolutionising and moving people through music. In tribute, people gathered at the Book Café to celebrate her life through pictures, music, song and dance.
Chiwoniso was a popular artist who over the years made her home at the Book Café. For many years she played every Tuesday night as the main act. She has performed with many of Zimbabwe’s famous artists and last night they came out in their droves to honour her, performing her songs, and paying homage to her tremendous talent.
Among those who performed were Gary Tight, Hope Masike, Victor Kunonga, Ba Shupi, Edith Weutonga and Tariro neGitare. Perhaps most moving was a special performance by Chiedza and Chengeto Brown, Chiwoniso’s daughters, alongside their famous stepsister, Ammara Brown. They wrote and performed a song which was an emotional farewell to Maraire, who was not only a mother-figure, but an inspiration as a musician. The venue was packed for this emotional tribute and there was joyful singing, dancing and tears to say farewell to this incredible artist.
The event was made possible in part by The Culture Fund and the European Union. Speaking last night, the head of the EU Delegation to Zimbabwe, Mr. Aldo Del’Arricia said of Chiwoniso, “She has left us in body, but she became immortal through her music”. The concert was also a fundraiser, bringing in an estimated $1,500, all of which will go to the Maraire family. Chiwoniso will be sorely missed by fans and members of the music community, but last night’s celebration showed that she will never be forgotten.