Stella Chiweshe
BornStella Rambisai Nekati Chiweshe
(1946-07-08)July 8, 1946
Mujumi Village Mhondoro
DiedJanuary 20, 2023(2023-01-20) (aged 76)
Kuwadzana Extension, Harare
  • Musician
Known forBeing a musician.
ChildrenVirginia Mukwesha

Stella Rambisai Chiweshe, real name Stella Nekati, was a popular Zimbabwean mbira player and arguably the first pioneer of Chimurenga music.

She made history by becoming the first successful female artist to venture into the male-dominated music industry.


She was born on the 8th of July 1964 in Mujumi Village, Mhondoro, about 45 miles from the capital city, Harare .[1]

She was married to a German national, Peter Reich, and spent most of her time in Germany.

Reich died in December 2022 when Chiweshe was already unwell in Zimbabwe.[2]

Her daughter Virginia Mukwesha is also a musician having been taught to play mbira since she was 12.

Music career

Stella Rambisai Nekati Chiweshe defied the odds and the tradition when she started learning to play the mbira, an instrument which culturally forbidden to women.

She also risked arrest as she was part of the underground Shona cultural activities that had been banned by the colonial regime.

Chiweshe's passion for the instrument caused her to learn it between 1966-1969. In those days she was labelled 'loose' as she spent most of her time with men who were teaching him.[3]

After mastering it she went on to sign a deal with Teal Record Company (now Grammar Records that saw her release her first single 'Kasahwa' which went gold.

Chiweshe went on to record more than 20 singles with the same company between 1975 and 1978 but they were never promoted hence they were never played on the radio.

This only made her stronger as she went on to form her first band 'Earthquake' in 1979 after Teal refused to record mbira music.

Her talent promoted her to assume a leading role as a mbira player and dancer in the National Dance Company of Zimbabwe in 1981.[4] The group toured many countries holding shows.

International Tours

1981 - 1985 : She performed in:

  • Mozambique
  • Australia
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Bulgaria
  • Yugoslavia
  • India
  • China
  • Korea.
  • 1987: Recording and publication of "Ambuya?" with Piranha Records/Germany; triumphant concert at Hackney Empire/London and the Beat Apartheid Road Festival in Germany with two members of an English band the 3 Mustaphas 3.
  • 1988: European tour with the Earthquake Band with shows in East Berlin for the "Festival des Politischen Liedes", West Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg.
  • 1990: Publishing of "Chisi" with Piranha records for Europe and Japan, first release of "Ambuya?" for the USA. Her concert at the Heimatklänge-Festival in Berlin/Germany becomes the main act of the Festival. Concerts in Great Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Led a women's workshop in Arhus/Denmark "Body in Soul"
  • 1991: First release of "Kumusha"; tour throughout Europe where she shared the stage with Mory Kante, Lucky Dube, Pepe Kalle, Empire Bakuba and John Peel Session.
  • 1992-1993: Tour in Greece, Turkey and throughout Europe with the Earthquake band. Led a women's workshop "Unter Wasser Fliegen" in Wuppertal/Germany as a teacher.
  • 1994: Publishing of "Shungu"; concerts in Germany and Great Britain. Solo tour in Norway, Finland and Sweden. Womad Festival with Peter Gabriel in North America, where she played solo in front of more than 10,000 people.
  • 1995: Tour in Europe with concerts in Slovenia, Switzerland, Austria, Great Britain, Italy, Poland, Hungary and Germany. Womad Festival in Australia with the "Trio"
  • 1996: Tour in Europe with concerts in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Great Britain and Ireland with her mother on percussion and her "Mbira Ensemble" ( 5 musicians)
  • 1997: Solo tour in Europe with concerts in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and the Czech Republic.
  • 1998: "Global Divas" tour in the USA sharing the stage with Susana Baca (Peru) and Tish Hinojosa (New Mexico) through more than 30 concerts. European tour and a number of radio recordings in the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany with the Trio.


The track 'Kumusha' won her a 1993 Billboard Music Award for performance on the Adult/ Alternativ/ World Music Album of the year) -Shungu 1990.

In 2006, she won a National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA)for being for being the most outstanding female artist in the music industry and for being the ambassador of Zimbabwean culture.

In 2020, she won the Nama Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2021, she won the Nama Legends Award.

As an Actress

Ambuya Chiweshe is not only a talented musician but an actress as well. She showed his versetality by featuring in Godwin Mawuru’s film, 'I Am The Future' in 1989.[5]


  • Ndizvozvo Ambuya (19870
  • Chisi (1989)
  • Kumusha (1991)
  • Shungu (1994)
  • Shungu*
  • The best of Stella Chiweshe (1998)
  • The Healing Tree (2001)
  • Tapera (2002)
  • Talking Mbira


Stella Chiweshe succumbed to cancer of the brain on the 20th of January 2023 at her Kuwadzana home in Harare. National Arts Council of Zimbabwe director Nicholas Moyo confirmed Chiweshe's death.[6] He said:

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of Nama legend, Mbuya Stella Rambisai Chiweshe, 77. Her daughter Virginia Mukwesha-Hetze informed me that Mbuya Chiweshe died peacefully from cancer of the brain at home in Harare this morning.


Chiweshe was buried in Nekati Village under Chief Masembura in Bindura on 24 January 2023 according to her traditional customs.[7]

Nyaradzo Funeral Parlour provided an expensive casket but her body was removed from the casket and wrapped in a reed mat (rukukwe) and cloth before being lowered into the grave.

This, according to her family, was done in accordance with her desire to easily be connected with her ancestral spirits.

The media was also barred from the graveside and only traditional music was played at the funeral wake.

Chiweshe reportedly instructed the family not to play any gospel songs at her funeral.

No gospel song was sung and no Biblical sermon was preached at her funeral and burial and everything was done according to African traditional rites and rituals.

Women who are still going through menstruation and young children were also barred from coming closer to the graveside.


  1. Stella Rambisai Chiweshe, 'African Music', Published: ND, Retrieved: 14 Apr 2014
  2. Stella Chiweshe’s traditional burial leaves tongues wagging, The Herald2, Published: 27 January 2023, Retrieved: 27 January 2023
  3. Jennifer Byrne, Stella Chiweshe: Seeking the sound of liberation, 'Roots World', Published: ND, Retrieved: 14 Apr 2014
  4. Stella Chiweshe
  5. Ruth Butaumocho, Ambuya Stella flies flag high, 'Herald' Published: 29 march 2011, Retrieved: 13 Apr 2014
  6. Zim’s Queen of mbira, Mbuya Stella Chiweshe succumbs to cancer, Chronicle, Published: 20 January 2023, Retrieved: 16 January 2023
  7. Trust Khosa Mbira queen Chiweshe granted traditional burial, The Herald1, Published: 25 January 2023, Retrieved: 27 January 2023