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Friday, November 26, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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`Dumi' Maraire Gave Northwest Sweet Taste Of African Marimba

Seattle Times Staff Reporters

Abraham Dumisani "Dumi" Maraire, a dynamic musician who introduced Northwest and North American students and audiences to the joyful sound of African marimba music, died yesterday (Nov. 25) in his native Zimbabwe.

Mr. Maraire, 56, suffered a stroke.

His death has saddened members of the ethnic-music community in the Puget Sound area, where he was a beloved teacher and ensemble leader.

"When he was on stage, he would forget who he was because he put his whole heart into playing," said Lora Chiorah-Dye, a fellow musician and the mother of his first three children.

"He was so energetic and so charismatic, people would just jump up and dance. He hypnotized everybody with his music."

Mr. Maraire also played piano and guitar at home, and he loved the music of James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack.

Born in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and educated by family musicians and at his homeland's college of music in Bulawayo, Mr. Maraire was widely considered one of the masters of mbira music. The mbira is a thumb piano, usually made of hammered iron keys fixed to a wooden body, and can produce two or three melodies at the same time by a single performer.

Mr. Maraire was a visiting professor in the University of Washington's ethnomusicology department from 1968 to 1972. Composing in his native language, Shona, he specialized in marimba music, singing, dancing and drumming.

He taught at The Evergreen State College in Olympia in the 1970s and had numerous private students. He also put together and led several marimba bands that played throughout the Northwest and British Columbia.

"Dumi was very important in Seattle for his charismatic performances leading his Zimbabwean marimba ensembles and for his promotion of African music," a friend, Larry Israel, wrote in an e-mail.

"His life greatly impacted the lives of hundreds of his students, and his infectious and danceable music was heard and loved by thousands."

Israel and ethnomusicologists credited Mr. Maraire with bringing marimba music to Seattle and North America. Mr. Maraire arranged or composed scores of pieces for marimba ensembles.

In 1982 he returned to Africa to develop an ethnomusicology program at the University of Zimbabwe. He resumed teaching in Seattle from 1986 to 1990, when he earned a doctorate in ethnomusicology at the UW, then returned to teach at the University of Zimbabwe.

Mr. Maraire recorded a number of compact discs, as did his three local marimba bands. He was dedicated to preserving and expanding the traditional music of Zimbabwe.

Mr. Maraire is survived by his daughters Chioniso Maraire of Harare, Zimbabwe, and Tawona Maraire of New Haven, Conn.; and his sons Ziyanayi Maraire of Seattle, Dumi Jr. of Harare and Christopher Sparks of Seattle. He is also survived by the children he had with Chiorah-Dye: their daughter, Danai Maraire of Washington, D.C.; and their sons, Tendai and Dumi Jr., both of Seattle.

Mr. Maraire's wife, Linda Nemarundwe, and another son, Rusununguko Maraire, died before Mr. Maraire.

A memorial gathering is pending.

Donations in behalf of Mr. Maraire's family may be sent to his sister-in-law, Ruth Nemarundwe, in care of Dandemutande, 1122 E. Pike St., No. 1163, Seattle, WA 98122.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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