Flame Lily inspired by Chiwoniso …wants to keep the fire burning

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By Benhilda Chademana

THERE is an upcoming artiste in the country largely inspired by the late mbira maestro Chiwoniso Maraire.

She is 22-year-old Leean Rukato. 

Chiwoniso was the daughter of renowned mbira maestro and teacher Dumisani Maraire and her music albums, among them Ancient Voices, made her a force to reckon with locally and abroad.

Besides playing mbira, Chiwoniso also successfully fused the traditional sound with modern instruments.

In an interview with Patriot Arts, Leean, also known as ‘Flame Lily’ (Zimbabwean national flower), started singing in 2021.

Her musical journey began at church and she has evolved into a multi-talented song writer and performing artiste.

“When my cousin heard my voice, she encouraged me to record and I went to give it a try,” she said. 

“I wanted to figure out how far I could go with music because then, I did not have the confidence.”

Just like her icon Chiwoniso, Leean started singing at an early age. 

Chiwoniso began playing the mbira at the age of four and recorded her first album with her parents when she was nine.

Leean, on the other hand, said she realised that, for her, music is not just singing and having a beat, but it is her sanctuary, a place where she feels at peace.

“I sang about my feelings and everything I was going through since I always bumped into problems, but I didn’t know how to express myself until singing came along,” she said

“I discovered music is a very good way of expressing myself as well as speaking for others out there.”

About her stage name, people used to call her Lee Pearls, before she changed it to ‘Flame Lily’ after ‘rediscovering herself’.

Turning to collaborations, the budding artiste said there are a couple of musicians she would love to work with, including Hope Masike and Feli Nandi, but for now, ‘she wants her voice to be heard’. 

“I want people to hear me first before I reach out to my icons for collaborations and I also want my message to be heard out there as Flame Lily,” she said.

“I want to tell my own story and walk my own journey because life has not been rosy.” 

As a female artiste, Leean said there are numerous challenges she encounters in the music industry, chief among them, and for other female artistes, promotions and recordings.

“It’s a pity that we bump into men who want ‘favours’ in order for them to assist and there is generally lack of support when it comes to female artistes,” she said.

“I also feel individuals like us, who do not have the finance to sponsor our music, are not recognised out there and we are taken for granted.

“I, however, believe that considering my background, if given a chance to spread my message through music, people will understand that I am singing for a cause.

“I want to be that voice for people like me out there, and be given a platform as female artistes where we can be supported.

“I am glad we have a programme I am part of which was founded by Sarah Nkala, aka Sarah Dee, and hopefully we will get sponsorship for our music, record and, given a chance, showcase what we have.”

Sarah Nkala, aka Sarah Dee.

Although she is yet to record an album, Leean said she hopes to transform peoples’ lives through her music. 

“In the next coming five years, it’s not about where I see myself, but about the lives I would have changed for the better.

“It is my hope that if funds are secured, I will have my own recording studio and equipment.” 

For now, however, music fans locally and abroad must brace for what she described as a ‘scorcher’ set to be released later this year. 

Chiwoniso, who died on July 24 2013 and was interred in Chimanimani, Manicaland, remains Flame Lily’s icon. 

Never mind her (Chiwoniso) shenanigans off stage.

The fact is Chiwoniso was a music superstar whose talent was unmatched and Flame Lily wants to keep the fire burning.

Funding, however, is crucial.

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