On 12 July, South Africa bid farewell to the iconic jazz musician, Ray Phiri. The legendary artist succumbed to his long-standing battle with lung cancer during the early morning. According to the Daily Maverick, the 70 year-old musician was surrounded by loved ones when he died.

Phiri co-founded the instrumental band called Cannibals in 1971. The band represented the soul of Soweto. It included Isaac Mtshali, Thabo Lloyd Lelosa and Jabu Sibumbe, along with Ray Phiri. These members later joined Phiri in founding Stimela.

Stimela became famous for hits such as “I Hate Telling a Lie”, “Look, Listen and Decide”, “Trouble in the Land of Plenty”, “Whispers in the Deep” and “Where Did We Go Wrong?” Stimela’s soul-filled music was a mainstay for music fans all across Southern Africa, and they inspired their fans through their socially conscious lyrical content and upbeat live performances.

During 1987 and 1990, Ray Phiri toured with Paul Simon. His unique guitar work and songwriting ability caught the attention of Simon who, shortly thereafter, tapped him to become one of the core musicians to form part of the Graceland album. Phiri soon became the very heartbeat of the Graceland album, and with that, was able to secure his place as a world-class guitarist and musician.

In 2011, Phiri was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for his contribution to the South African music industry. In 2012, during the 18th South African Music Awards, he earned the Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the beginning of this year, Phiri joined Black Major Artist Management. He was set to release various productions, but sadly was unable to when his health took a turn for the worse.

Ray Phiri leaves behind an iconic repertoire, ensuring that listeners are able to connect to his legacy although he is no longer with us.

Image: Michelle Hartzenberg

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