Zimbabwe's Chiwoniso "Shifts Base" Moving to US


Zimbabwe's outspoken popular music star Chiwoniso has relocated to the United States, removing herself and her children from the political and economic unrest that has plagued the country for the last eight years. During that time Chiwoniso has often been the subject of police harassment due to her straight talk about the Mugabe government's repression of free speech. "I am frustrated because things are not changing on the political front as quickly as they should," Chiwoniso explains. "The people of the older generation are not giving the younger generation what we need to make things happen. I can't do a gig because half the town is in darkness and there is no electricity and cash. How am I going to feed my kids? As a parent I have to make a plan for my children."

On August 19th, Chiwoniso and her two daughters moved to Southern California, where her sister and her family currently live. Zimbabwe remains "home" for Chiwoniso and the move is temporary, allowing time for Zimbabwe to stabilize. "Zimbabwe is my heart and soul," she says emphatically. "I am keeping 90 percent of my stuff there... the house and property. I am not running away, I am shifting base because it's difficult there." Chiwoniso believes the difficulty comes from the political situation and not problems with any inherent struggles amongst the Zimbabwean people. "My concern is that things are not about Mugabe and Tsvangirai any more, there are a lot of people who are enjoying the political stalemate and manipulating the political situation for their own benefit and that's why we are going to have problems because those same people will continue telling Mugabe that he is the best when he is not."

The move to the United States is also driven by Chiwoniso's artistic visions. "I need change right now in my life, more sounds, and fluid creativity. I was feeling stifled and simply needed a chance to breathe. I want to work with other musical stars, experiment with violins and harps and orchestras. There are a number of people in the States who I can build a band with and tour." The move is also a homecoming of sorts, "Because of having been born (in the US), America is a part of me, as is South Africa, as is Zimbabwe. My siblings are here in the US, as are many friends of my parents, people who were deeply involved in the early formation of who I am today."

The move will allow Chiwoniso to bring greater international attention to Zimbabwe and it's music. "It's the greatest thing I could do for Zimbabwean music - spread it wide and far." Chiwoniso has already formed a band in the US, which will be backing her on her upcoming US tour that began in New York City on September 10th. Joining her on stage are her brother Tendai Maraire and sister Tawona Gatson, both of whom were also immersed since early childhood in Zimbabwean traditional music by their father, Dumisani Maraire. They are part of an eight-piece ensemble that will be performing at major venues and festivals and concert stages across the US and Canada in September. Chiwoniso's new album Rebel Woman on the Cumbancha label is now available in the US and is to be released on September 29th in Europe and the rest of the world.

article submitted by:Simeon Chapin, Cumbancha