The Sunday News
ACTING President Dr Constantino Chiwenga has described the late iconic songstress Stella Chiweshe as a cultural ambassador who worked hard to preserve Zimbabwe’s culture and promote the country’s traditional music on the global stage.
The musician, who pioneered and popularised the mbira dzavadzimu music genre, passed on at her Kuwadzana residence after battling cancer. She was aged 76.
Government will foot the costs of laying to rest the late songstress after she was granted a state-assisted funeral. The Mbira Dzavadzimu music proponent rose to global acclaim on the back of her uniquely Zimbabwean sound, which won her international acclaim. In a statement, Acting President Chiwenga said he had learnt of Mbuya Chiweshe’s passing with a deep sense of sorrow.
“Mbuya Chiweshe played a huge role in the preservation, celebration as well as taking Zimbabwean culture on to the global stage through her Mbira Dzavadzimu music.
“Today, the rest of the world is acquainted to mbira music and Zimbabwean culture thanks, in part, to the works of Mbuya Chiweshe. As Government, we view her international success marked by international music awards not only as recognition of her talent but as a celebration of Zimbabwean culture. Thanks to the immortality of music, the world will continue to celebrate Zimbabwean culture beyond the life of Mbuya Chiweshe and as Zimbabweans we can only be proud of this global acclaim that she has and will continue to bring us.”
With the mbira instrument, with which Mbuya Stella Chiweshe rose to global acclaim, having long been associated with spirituality and being a symbol of colonial resistance, Acting President Chiwenga said the late musician helped inspire Zimbabwean’s quest for freedom.
“Having started her musical journey as far back as the 1960s at a time the colonial Government frowned at the mbira instrument, which they viewed as an instrument of rebellion and one of spiritual inspiration towards the attainment of independence, Mbuya Chiweshe’s music played a role in inspiring freedom fighters.
“Let me also take this opportunity to thank His Excellency the President Dr ED Mnangagwa for granting this great ambassador of our culture and our music a state assisted funeral.”
Zimbabwe, he said, was poorer without Mbuya Chiweshe.
In a statement announcing the granting of a state-assisted funeral, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda said: “The Acting President, Dr Constantino Dominic Guveya Nyikadzino Chiwenga, after consultation with His Excellency President, Dr Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, has announced that Government has granted the late music icon and Mbira Dzavadzimu player, Mbuya Stella Rambisai Chiweshe, a state-assisted funeral.
“This means all the costs related to her interment will be assumed by the state. His Excellency the President, who is on leave, and the Acting President extend their deepest, heartfelt condolences to the entire Chiweshe and Reich families on this, their saddest loss.”
He said the late musical icon epitomised Zimbabwe’s cultural excellence through the Mbira Dzavadzimu genre, which she successfully took to the international stage. National Arts Council of Zimbabwe director Mr Nicholas Moyo thanked the Government for the recognition. “For us we are grateful for this recognition, its confirmed and we would like to thank the Government for that.
“The seriousness that the Government is showing to the industry is greatly appreciated. It’s not like there is a crisis or that artists cannot cater for themselves but it’s an honour and recognition from Government and once again we are grateful for that.”
Mr Moyo said burial arrangements will be finalised upon the arrival into the country of Mbuya Chiweshe’s eldest daughter.
Separately, the Zimbabwe Music Awards described the late Mbuya Chiweshe as a “renowned mbira player, musician and cultural ambassador who singlehandedly made it possible for the girl child to play the mbira instrument when it was a preserve for men only.
“She unapologetically took our music and culture to the world and raised the Zimbabwean flag high and proud.
“Today, she leaves not only a musical legacy but a legacy of humility and humanity, Ubuntu.”
Born Stella Rambisai Nekati Chiweshe on July 8, 1946 in Mujumi Village, Mhondoro, Zimbabwe.
She was internationally known for her singing and playing of the mbira dzavadzimu, a traditional instrument in Zimbabwe.
She learned to play mbira between 1966 and 1969 when fewer females played the instrument. Mbuya Chiweshe performed numerous times in Germany and also participated in the WOMAD festival (1994 in the United States, 1995 in Australia, and 2006 in Spain). In 2004, she toured England with her daughter.
Mbuya Chiweshe was married to Peter Reich, a German national.