The Kunonga Masekela affair

Hugh MasekelaBruce Ndlovu
The untimely passing of the late mbira maestro, Chiwoniso Maraire, in 2013 robbed the country of one of its most enterprising and innovative artistes who was well on her way to gaining legendary status both in Zimbabwe and on the continent.
Chiwoniso, who passed away at the relatively tender age of 36, was perhaps yet to give the countrya��s music lovers her best, as one of her projects, a collaborative album produced by South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela and Afro Jazz sensation Victor Kunonga, was still in the works.

The project, a brainchild of Masekela, was initially set to be a tribute to Marairea��s late father, mbira master and teacher, Dumisani Maraire. Plans for the album came to a halt however, when Chiwoniso passed away. Two years later, a quartet of musicians from around the country have taken the mantle and are now making sure that the project did not die with Chiwoniso, as they bring her vision to life one song at a time.

Powered by the duo of Kunonga and Masekela, the four-woman group that comprises of Prudence Katomeni Mbofana, Benita Tarupiwa, Joyce Warikwanda and Rumbidzai Tavaziva, the group is hard at work on the yet to be named album.

In an interview a fortnight ago, Masekela confirmed that he was hard at work on the project, which is now a tribute to Chiwoniso.
a�?Most of my time has been spent working with Shai Shai. The mbira project is more of a dedication to Chiwoniso now more than anything else,a�? he said.

While Masekela is the executive producer behind the project, its direction will be determined by Kunonga who has assumed a role as the musical director.

In an interview, Kunonga said the group was relatively unknown in the country, something that might change once they start performing.

a�?The group at this point is virtually an unknown entity because it is yet to perform its songs. Once we get that out of the way then people will get a lot more familiar with them,a�? he said.

Kunonga said that picking the ladies to continue Marairea��s legacy had not been a hard task as the four ladies had taken initiative on their own.

a�?They themselves came together to form the group so the process happened effortlessly. They just came together and decided to do the project without anyone in particular handpicking them. It is great to see these ladies stick to the project even after the death of Chiwoniso,a�? he said.