She was a Zimbabwean singer, songwriter, and exponent of Zimbabwean mbira music. She was the daughter of Zimbabwean mbira Master and teacher Dumisani Maraire a former officer in the Zimbabwe Ministry of Sports and Culture in the early 1980s.
Chiwoniso also known as "Chi" was born on 5 March 1976 in Olympia, Washington State, United States of America (USA) and died 24 July 2013. She was the daughter of a celebrated Zimbabwean mbira player and teacher, Dumisani Maraire. He had moved to the USA to work in the ethnomusicology department at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her mother, Linda Nemarundwe Maraire, known as "Mai Chi", was a singer. She moved back to Zimbabwe where she attended Mutare Girls High School and took evening classes at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), where her father was teaching. She was married to Andy Brown and the couple later divorced they had two daughters, Chengeto and Chiedza.
She began playing mbira at the age of 4 years and recorded her first album with her parents when she was nine. She spent the first 7 years of her life in the USA. At 11 years she was performing with her father and her siblings Tawona and Ziyanai in the family mbira group Mhuri yaMaraire (the Maraire Family). She also played in her father's mbira group Minanzi III (Musical Sounds 3). At the age 15 years, she formed part of Afro-fusion hip-hop trio A Peace of Ebony, which "was perhaps the first group to fuse mbira with contemporary beats". One of the country's best-known exponents of the mbira, the traditional thumb piano, made of metal strips attached to a wooden board. She was celebrated for the way in which she modernised the ancient instrument, which had traditionally been used by male musicians, and for the way in which she used the Mbira as the backing for her own songs, which often dealt with social and political issues, and in collaborations involving hip-hop or jazz.
She was also involved in writing soundtracks for films and documentaries. Chiwoniso fronted her acoustic group Chiwoniso & Vibe Culture for several years. In 1997 she recorded her first solo album, Ancient Voices, which won the Radio France International award for best new artist. She joined a group called The Storm, a band led by guitarist Andy Brown (who became her husband and later divorced). The Storm became one of Zimbabwe’s biggest bands, touring the world and winning accolades.... Maraire’s firm voice and Brown’s plucky guitar made a beautiful combination. In 2001-2004, she was also a core member of the multinational all-women band Women's Voice, whose original members hailed from Norway, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, America, Israel and Algeria. Chiwoniso also starred in films, having worked on the soundtracks for movies and documentaries by an array of Zimbabwean writers and film producers She went on to record three more albums namely Timeless (2004), Hupenyu Kumusha, Life at Home, Impilo Ekhaya. The Collaboration: Volume 1 (2006), and Rebel Woman (2008).
The late mbira Queen was honoured in 2015 as StarBrite each year honours a local music icon. The 2015 StarBrite semi-finals saw the contestants performing songs from her album Ancient Voices. The finals also saw her songs being performed as medley together with Hope Masike’s.