Hugh Masekela Visits Dumi, Chiwoniso Maraire’s Burial Place

Zimbo Jam
Fungai Tichawangana

Photograph by Walter Wanyanya

One of Africa’s most legendary and celebrated musicians, Hugh Masekela, this last weekend fulfilled a long standing wish and visited the burial place of his old friend, Zimbabwe’s iconic Mbira musician, Dumisani Maraire.

Masekela, who was meant to headline the postponed Harare Jazz Festival on September 13, could have cancelled his trip to Zimbabwe, but insisted that the other parts of his programme in the country were just as important.

He told Zimbo Jam, “I have been meaning to visit Dumi’s grave for many years, but never got the chance to. This is a special trip for me.”

He explained how he met Chiwoniso when she was still a little child. “Dumi and I met in Seattle in 1970 and that’s where I also met his daughter Chiwoniso when she was still a little baby.”

Dumi Maraire is famous for taking mbira music to the USA and starting a cultural movement that lives on to this day.

Dumi was born in Mutare, on December 27, 1944. He began learning music from family members, and later at the college of music in Bulawayo. Maraire taught from 1968 through 1972 at the University of Washington in Seattle, where Chiwoniso was born.

He remained in the region throughout until 1982, teaching at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, giving private music lessons, performing in Pacific Northwest cities and in British Columbia with several marimba groups he founded.

He passed away on November 25, 1999 and was buried at the Maraire family homestead in Chakohwa Village, Mutambara in the Chimanimani area of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands.

When his daughter, Chiwoniso, died on July 24, 2013, she was to be buried next to her father.

On Saturday, September 13, 2014 , Bra Hugh Masekela fulfilled his long term wish to visit the resting place of his two friends. He was accompanied by members of the Maraire Familiy, including renowned Neurosurgeon and Mbira Month chairperson, Nozipho Maraire. Also with him were some of his Zimbabwean friends, Sam Mataure, Victor Kunonga and Walter Wanyanya.

Bra Hugh wiped dust of Dumi’s grave before laying flowers on it. He also laid flowers on Chi’s grave which is yet to be built up. “Rest in peace,” he said.

Then, after a few moments of bowed heads, Bra Hugh took out his trumpet and played a song for his departed friends.

Later on, after the dust from the Chimanimani trip had settled, Bra Hugh revealed that his great grandfather was from Zimbabwe. “My great grand father was from here. His name name was Munyepawo – which is our real surname. These borders that separate our countries are articifial,” he averred.

Last week, the inaugural Hugh Masekela Lecture was held at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus, and another great Zimbabwean friend of Bra Hugh’s, musical icon Oliver Mtukudzi, gave the lecture.

While he is in Zimbabwe, Bra Hugh will continue the recording a musical project that he started with Chiwoniso while she was still alive. He leaves on Wednesday.