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Rebel Woman

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Album Review

With a good ten-year gap between her debut and sophomore releases, Chiwoniso (daughter of the great Dumisani Maraire) had plenty of time to develop her sound for Rebel Woman, and indeed she did. The stylings mirror her own travels, with elements of traditional African music, bits of British R&B, and a bit of modern African sound in the vein of a Johnny Clegg. The music is anchored by Chiwoniso's mbira, keeping some of the cascading sounds so representative of Zimbabwean music (Stella Chiweshe's mbira, Thomas Mapfumo's guitar). As something of a counterpoint to her strongly Zimbabwean sound, the backing band carries a more Pan-African bent, with elements of soukous, highlife, and South African jazz in the rhythm section (indeed, the guitars are courtesy of Louis Mhlanga, a veteran of both King Sunny Ade's band and Hugh Masekela's). The album opens with a pair of pieces of what can only be termed modern Zimbabwean, with mbiras and electric basses vying for attention. In "Gomo," the chorus' call and response is a bit reminiscent of Olatunji's landmark recordings. As she moves from song to song, she moves from language to language, carrying a little more of an acoustic soul sound in many of her English passages. The album touches on the political ("Rebel Woman," the title track), it touches on the cultural ("Listen to the Breeze"), and it touches on straightforward dance music (Gomo). Throughout, Chiwoniso's sound is clean and complex, her vocals and mbira holding the front of the stage. Not a bad sophomore effort, even if it took a while to come about.


Genre: World

Years Active:

The daughter of Zimbabwean artist Dumisani Maraire, singer/mbira player Chiwoniso Maraire specializes in an R&B-drenched style of African pop. But the vocalist, who goes by her first name professionally, wasn't actually born in Africa. Chiwoniso was born in Olympia, WA, and lived in the U.S. until adolescence; she was 15 when she moved with her parents to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. It was in Harare that she made her presence felt on the Zimbabwean pop scene and became a member of the Afro-pop...
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Rebel Woman, Chiwoniso
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