Zimfest News Blog

Posts Tagged "passings"

In Memory of Martha Thom Mafuleni

By Dana Moffett. Posted by Claire Jones on behalf of the Organizing Committee and ZA Board.

Dear Friends of the Mafuleni Family,

I hope this email finds you in good health and spirits. Today, I write to you with a heavy heart, as our dear friend Jacob Mafuleni is going through an unimaginable tragedy. As you may have heard, Jacob has lost three family members, including his beloved wife Martha Thom Mafuleni, in a tragic road accident in Zimbabwe, leaving him devastated and in desperate need of our support.

This tragedy has not only taken away his mother Gogo Mafuleni, his brother Zondiwa Mafuleni, but also a remarkable woman who was the heart and soul of their family and community. Jacob’s sister-in-law, sister, and niece are hospitalized. Our community has fully supported school fees and family support for their children Abel, Jacob Jr, Byron, and Tinotenda. This is another way to help out our beloved family during this devastating time.

Martha, Jacob’s wife, was an exceptional dancer, a dedicated teacher, and an invaluable pillar of the music and dance community both in Zimbabwe and here in the United States. Her passion for dance was contagious, and she touched the lives of countless students, inspiring them to embrace the art form and pursue their dreams. Through her teaching, Martha nurtured a new generation of talented dancers, leaving a lasting impact on her Dzivarasekwa community’s cultural landscape.

Beyond her role as a dance teacher, Martha was a beacon of strength and compassion. She always lent a helping hand to those in need and radiated warmth that made everyone feel welcomed and cared for. Her contributions to the community went far beyond the dance floor and performance stage, as she selflessly dedicated herself to various charitable initiatives and events, enriching the lives of those around her.

In the face of this heartbreaking loss, we have set up a GoFundMe campaign through Matanho Project to help our dear friend Jacob in this trying time and to honor Martha’s memory. The funds raised will not only support him with immediate expenses but also serve as a tribute to the legacy of a remarkable woman who touched so many lives. Your contribution, no matter how big or small, will make a significant difference in Jacob’s life and ensure that Martha’s impact on our community is remembered and celebrated.

Here’s how you can help:
1. Donate: Every dollar counts, and your donation will directly impact Jacob’s life. https://gofund.me/9206e6bf

2. Share: Even if you are unable to donate at this time, you can still make a difference. Share the GoFundMe campaign with your family, and friends, and on social media to reach a broader audience who may be willing to lend their support.

Let us stand united in this moment of darkness, celebrating the life of a woman who brightened our lives, and be a beacon of hope for our friend in need. Together, we can ease his burden and ensure that Martha’s legacy lives on in the hearts of those she touched.

If you have any questions or need further information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.

Thank you for your compassion, generosity, and solidarity in this time of grief. Let’s surround Jacob with love and support as he navigates through this painful chapter of his life and cherishes the memory of his beloved Martha.

With heartfelt gratitude,
Dana Moffett

Mafuleni family photo

Posted In: Festival News
Tagged With: ,
1 Comment

Nematambudziko: Mbira Queen Stella Chiweshe Passes

Mbuya Stella Chiweshe, renowned Zimbabwean musician and pioneering female gwenyambira, passed away at her home in Kuwadzana on 20 January. Born Stella Rambisai Nekati Chiweshe on July 8, 1946 in Mujumi Village, Mhondoro, Mbuya Stella Chiweshe was undoubtedly Zimbabwe’s Queen of Mbira and one of the country’s foremost cultural ambassadors. Married to German national Peter Reich, Mbuya Stella had returned to Zimbabwe telling relatives that her days were coming to a close and she needed to settle back home (more info is available here).

North America students of mbira may be familiar with Chiweshe’s many pre-independence mbira singles, the first of which, “Kasahwa,” went gold in its initial 1974 release. For four years following independence, she was the featured mbira player in the Zimbabwe National Dance Company. In 1986 she formed the Earthquake, a mixed band which included three Zimbabwean-style marimbas and hosho played by her daughter Virginia Mukwesha. Mbuya Chiweshe recorded several albums, performed numerous times in Europe and the WOMAD festival and took at least two tours to the US, participating in Zimfest 2007.

I met Mbuya Chiweshe during my first visit to Zimbabwe in 1980-81; she performed on mbira in a 1st Anniversary of Independence show, opening for Dumi Na Maraire Marimba (an ensemble featuring all Zimbabweans plus myself). Following my return to Zimbabwe in 1985 I discovered that Mbuya Stella and Virginia were living a short distance away from my place in the Avenues area of Harare. I became a frequent visitor and thus was around and able to lend a helping hand when she formed the Earthquake – with some of the same marimba players from St. Peter’s Kubatana that I had gotten to know five years previously! It has always seemed like each time I have been in Zimbabwe, Mbuya Stella and her music was just around the corner. I know her spirit will endure, and her music continue to inspire in the many memorable recordings she made.

Steadfast in her musicality and strong spirituality, there was no one like Mbuya Stella. She will be sorely missed. My condolences to her daughter Virginia Mukwesha-Hetze and the entire Chiweshe family. Nematambudziko.

                          Stella Chiweshe and the Earthquake – Harare 1990


With love,
Claire Jones, Zimfest Coordinator
Music Dancing Across Borders

Posted In: Festival News
Tagged With:
No Comments

Sekuru Cosmas Magaya 1953-2020

Joining with mbira students and enthusiasts around the world, Zimfest deeply mourns the loss of Sekuru Cosmas Magaya, who was laid to rest at Magaya village in Mhondoro, Zimbabwe, on the 13th of July 2020.  He was one of the last of the revered senior generation of gwenyambiras, loved by all who knew him, and an important teacher to many of us in the Zimfest community.  His mbira playing was both powerful and profoundly rooted in his spiritual traditions.

Sekuru Magaya played an integral role in the research of ethnomusicologist Paul Berliner’s award-winning book The Soul of Mbira (1978), through which he first became known worldwide. After that book’s publication, he taught and performed countless times internationally in Europe and the US. His long-anticipated book collaborations with Paul Berliner, The Art of Mbira: Musical Inheritance and Legacy (2020)  and Mbira’s Restless Dance are being published this year by the University of Chicago Press, to enthusiastic acclaim.

Sekuru Magaya participated in 11 Zimbabwean Music Festivals beginning in 1998, as a teacher, performer, and respected elder who led opening ceremonies and served as a shining example for Zimbabweans new to U.S. touring.  He was a true and open-hearted cultural ambassador.

To support Sekuru Magaya’s family during this time, Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center in Eugene, Oregon, has established a memorial fund in his name. To learn more and donate to this fund, please follow this link


Zororai murugare – Rest in Peace 

Posted In: Zimfest Association News
Tagged With: ,

Tribute to Oliver Mtukudzi

The Zimfest Association joins Zimbabweans everywhere in mourning the passing last week of musical and humanitarian giant Oliver Mtukudzi. The tribute below is published with the permission of author Jennifer Kyker, a former Zimfest Association board member. Nematambudziko.

Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi

Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi was singular in innumerable ways, from the resonant sound of his husky voice to his playful dance moves, with names like “donkey jump” and “railway line.” From his trademark cough inspired by Mpharanyana to his tall, lanky frame, his complexion dark like the rich soils of Dande, there was no one remotely like him, this towering figure known by his clan praise name of Nzou Samanyanga, the Elephant, Bearer of Tusks.

Mtukudzi’s songs were by turns mournful, funny, nostalgic, witty, heart-rending, energizing, and even sometimes mystifying. Almost unfailingly, they demonstrated his exceptional mastery of the Shona language, his tight-knit style of musical arrangement, and his fundamental belief that song is primarily intended to convey a message. As he saw it, music was simply the attraction, or hwezvo, drawing people to listen to the message of a song. “Kuridza kurunga,” he told me, “You’re just flavoring the song.”

Hundreds of well-flavored songs consistently served Mtukudzi’s purpose, delivering message after message to several generations of listeners. In them, Mtukudzi counseled us to respect our parents, to remain humble before our elders, and to acknowledge our limitations once we ourselves are elderly. He cautioned us against abusing alcohol, against mistreating our children and wives, and against stigmatizing people living with HIV/AIDS. He encouraged family planning and women’s rights. He asserted the value of kinship obligations, indigenous musical styles, traditional foods, and customary practices often targeted as obsolete.

At the same time, Mtukudzi saw one message as particularly central, a single umbrella covering all of his songs. He described it in many ways – as hunhu, as self-discipline, as respect, as moral personhood. Ultimately, Mtukudzi’s message was simply this – that our humanity is an expression of love shared with others. In his own words:
“…that is what is called a human being. That is the soul of a person. We don’t need qualifications to attain self-discipline. And self-discipline simply translates to respecting the next person. To love the next person. It all comes from self-discipline. It’s not something that we acquire academically; you are born with it. You know what’s good and what’s bad. And, the more you talk about that, the more you remind people how we should live. So it’s way above what we think. It’s what we’re supposed to be.”

Mtukudzi’s musical genius emerged in the way he brought this consistent emphasis on moral personhood together with infectious dance rhythms, irresistible guitar work, unforgettable lyrics, and perfectly crafted song forms. In the process, he touched countless numbers of listeners.
Preceded in death by his beloved son Sam, Tuku’s passing will be felt most keenly by his family, including his wife Daisy, and his daughters Sandra, Selmor, and Samantha. Outside the durawall of Mtukudzi’s home in Norton, an entire nation mourns with them, and beyond the nation’s borders, millions more.

Introducing himself during one performance, Mtukudzi told his audience, “When you say Mtukudzi, you mean ‘One who makes one rich.’ And I’m not on my own, I do have the Black Spirits with me. And we are here to make you rich.”

Truly, Samanyanga, you have made us rich. You have enriched us as individuals, as families, as communities, and as a nation. Thank you. You have shown us the gold of humanity in all the shades of black, in all the rich soils of Dande, and in all the strings of your Godin guitar. Tinotenda. You have shared with us a wealth that goes beyond bank accounts and bond notes, a wealth that does not wear out with age, that cannot be seized, that does not go up in flames, and that cannot be tracked or devoured by predatory animals. Mazvita enyu Samanyanga. You have reminded us of the soul of the Zimbabwean people. Ndima mapedza Nzou, masakura nekuzunza zvese. Zororai murugare Samanyanga, gamba renyika.


Jennifer W. Kyker, PhD
Author, Oliver Mtukudzi: Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe (2016)

Posted In: Festival News
Tagged With: ,
1 Comment

In Loving Memory

Dear Zimfest Community,
The Zimfest Association Board regrets to announce the passing of our friend Karen Wolf. Karen was a beloved member of the NW Washington Zimbabwean music community. She also loved Zimfest and was a committed volunteer. We will miss her warmth and beautiful photographs of the festival. Our deepest condolences go to her family and friends. May her soul rest in peace.

– ZA Board of Directors

Posted In: Festival News
Tagged With: ,
No Comments

Passing of Sheasby Matiure

The Zimfest Association Board regrets to announce the passing of Dr. Sheasby Matiure in Zimbabwe. The Zimfest community has lost one of our longtime teachers and friends, a great contributor to Zimbabwean music education. Our deepest condolences go to his family and students worldwide.

–ZA Board of Directors

Sheasby Matiure Obituary

It is with a heavy heart that we share the passing of Dr. Sheasby Matiure on November 10, 2016 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Sheasby was an incredibly talented musician, educator and scholar in both North America and Zimbabwe. He was a commanding teacher, with a true passion for music, as well as for teaching. His dedication to his students was matched only by his dedication to his wife and family.

Sheasby Matiure and Ambuya Beauler Dyoko

Sheasby Matiure and Ambuya Beauler Dyoko

Sheasby Matiure, born on July 27, 1956, grew up in two areas: Chivhu in Mashonaland, south of Harare, and Bulawayo in western Zimbabwe. His grandfather played the mbira and wanted to teach him. However, he passed away before he could learn from him. In high school he stood out as a musician, playing piano and guitar, and among his favorite musical styles were maskanda, Palm Wine music, and Jimi Hendrix. Sheasby earned his Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from the University of Zimbabwe and a Music Instructor’s Certificate from Kwanongoma College of Music where he was introduced to the mbira nyunganyunga, the marimba and to choral singing, all of which became his areas of expertise and excellence. From 1985-2000, Sheasby served as Lecturer of Music Education at Seke Teacher Training College in Chitungwiza. He has performed across Europe, the United States, and Africa both as a solo artist and as Manager and Artistic Director of the Zimbabwe National Dance Company (1980-1982).

It was while Sheasby directed the National Dance Company that he met Dumisani Maraire who had returned from the US and was working for the Ministry of Youth Sport and Recreation. Dumi had taught and performed extensively in the US, and planted the seeds of the Zimbabwean music community, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Sheasby quickly became his right hand man, performing mbira nyunganyunga on international stages. Sheasby met Natalie Jones Kreutzer, who taught in the newly formed Music Education department at the University of Zimbabwe, and who sought a Zimbabwean musician to bring to the United States to serve as an artist-in-residence for the International Vocal Ensemble at Indiana University. She and Mary Goetze served as mentors to Sheasby throughout his time at IU.

Sheasby became an artist-in-residence at IU in 1997, and stayed in Bloomington to finish a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology in 1999. During that time, he also taught at Zimfest and across the US. In 1998, he formed the Mutinhimira Marimba Ensemble, with the support of IU’s Folklore & Ethnomusicology Department, which purchased the marimba set from Zimbabwe. In 2004, Sheasby returned to Indiana University on a Fulbright Scholarship to complete his PhD, including his dissertation, “Performing Zimbabwean Music In North America: An Ethnography of Mbira and Marimba Performance Practice in the United States.” During this time, he continued to teach in the Zimbabwean music community, formed a second incarnation of Mutinhimira, and led the Mbira Queens, an mmbira nyunganyunga ensemble featuring rich vocal harmonies. During both stints at IU, he taught undergraduate courses in African Music and Performance.

Sheasby Matiure Graduation

Sheasby Matiure Graduation

Upon completion of his PhD in Ethnomusicology (minor in African Studies) in 2008, he returned to Zimbabwe as Senior Lecturer of Music Education and Ethnomusicology and Chairman of the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Zimbabwe. In that role, he oversaw national education standards for Zimbabwe. He continued to passionately support the spread of Zimbabwean music through his ongoing connection to his mbira and marimba students in the US. His last teaching and performing tour was in the summer of 2014, and included Vermont, the Midwest, Boulder, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, including Zimfest and Nhemamusasa North. He had planned to return in 2017, hoping to introduce his musical son Tafadzwa to the Zimbabwean music community in the US.

He recorded two albums while at Indiana University, Ngoma (1998), a collection of mbira songs featuring back-up vocals by Monkey Puzzle, and Sarura Wako (2008), a combination of the Mbira Queens and Mutinhimira Marimba Band repertoire. Sarura Wako (in Shona, “choose your partner”) is dedicated to his wife, Jane.

Throughout his long career, Sheasby performed and conducted workshops in African musical performance in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Great Britain. He performed for Queen Elizabeth II during a tour of Australia, and for Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during her visit to IU. During his graduate studies, he performed and conducted workshops across the United States, in a variety of contexts. According to Sheasby, one pinnacle of his career was his performance with the Mbira Queens at Zimfest in 2008, as the crowd, many of whom were his students, former Dumi students, or fellow Zimbabwean musicians, sang along enthusiastically.

He was a well-loved teacher and friend to many in all corners of the US. He was known for his immensely powerful singing voice, his strict concern for Shona pronunciation, and his “tough love” teaching style. His humor kept workshops and rehearsals light and full of laughter, and his discipline sharpened our skills. Sheasby’s talent was immense, and his ability to teach Zimbabwean music was a cherished gift for students and audiences across the world. He believed that the power of music was in sharing it.

Dr. Sheasby Matiure is survived by his beloved wife, Jane, his daughters, Tinashe Hore (Matthew) and Tsungie Munyeza (Obert), and sons, Takudwa (Runyararo) and Tafadzwa, and five grandchildren. His spirit continues on through them, and through his friends and students.

–The Mbira Queens, Mutinhimira Marimba Ensemble, and friends

Sheasby and Jane Matiure

Sheasby and Jane Matiure

Donations to support Jane and the family with funeral expenses can be posted to PayPal at this link:

Or checks can be sent to:
Angela Scharfenberger
1121 Julia Ave.
Louisville, KY 40204

“It does touch people’s souls…a lot of times, even when I’m playing on and on because I hear something I don’t usually hear, and I just keep playing on and on for a long time, the instrument is talking to me and I’m talking back to it. If that happens in a performance, that moves from you into the audience.” –Sheasby Matiure, 2007

Posted In: Festival News
Tagged With: , ,