Saturday 21 January 2023


 A DARK cloud hung over Zimbabwe yesterday following the death of popular mbira music queen, Stella Rambisai Chiweshe, popularly known as Mbuya Chiweshe.

The internationally-renowned mbira musician was born on July 8, 1946, in Mujumi Village in Mhondoro.

She succumbed to cancer of the brain yesterday morning at her Kuwadzana home in Harare. She was 77.

As condolence messages continued to pour in, some voices across the arts spectrum such as Jenaguru Arts Centre founder and musician Clive Malunga began lobbying for the late Chiweshe to be accorded national hero status for her contribution to the arts industry.

Malunga described Chiweshe as an upholder of Zimbabwean culture through her music and films.

“Mbuya Chiweshe was the Zimbabwe music ambassador and world class artiste, who popularised mbira, marimba, hosho nengoma across the globe. One of Jenaguru Music Festival founding members, Mbuya Chiweshe was a strong pillar for women musicians in Zimbabwe, who represented women at most major events for artists,” he said.

“In appreciation of her prowess in music, Mbuya Chiweshe was crowned queen of mbira music at Gwanzura Stadium in Highfield, Harare, and was honoured with a 21-carat gold star. She was also to be conferred with a honorary degree in 2002 by the University of Zimbabwe through a Jenaguru Arts Centre initiative. The queen of mbira music deserves the national hero status, as she was a patriotic cadre of Zimbabwe.  May her soul rest in peace.”

National Arts Council of Zimbabwe executive director Nicholas Moyo described the late songbird as Zimbabwe’s Queen of Mbira.

“Mbuya Stella Chiweshe was undoubtedly Zimbabwe’s Queen of Mbira and one of the country’s foremost cultural exports. With her swooping vocals on the mbira, she brought traditional Zimbabwean Shona music to the international stage,” Moyo said.

Zimbabwe Music Rights Association executive director Polisile Ncube-Chimhini said Chiweshe had left a big void in the music industry that was hard to fill instantly.

“I am so sorry for the passing on of Mbuya Chiweshe. The music fraternity has lost a giant, true patriot and a revolutionary musician whose music inspired the black majority,” she said.

“I believe her music will, however, continue to inspire generations to come. My heart is with the Chiweshe family and the whole arts industry at this difficult time. May her soul rest in peace.”

National Gallery of Zimbabwe executive director Raphael Chikukwa said: “This is a saddest start of the year 2023. We have been robbed of the daughter of the soil and a singer par excellence as a nation. She was a powerful voice that will remain with us and those across waters. May her soul rest in peace.”

Renowned multi-instrumentalist and music producer, Clive “Mono” Mukundu said: “It is sad that this January, we have lost yet another international icon from Zimbabwe, the same month that we lost superstar Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi. May her soul rest in peace.”

With a career spanning over 40 years, Chiweshe was a recipient of various local and international awards, including the Billboard Music Award (1993), the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) (2006), the Nama Lifetime Achievement Award (2020), and the Nama Legends Awards (2021).

While burial arrangements will be announced in due course, mourners are gathered at Mukwesha Homestead in Chinyika, Goromonzi, Mashonaland East province. Newsday


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