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Tributes pour in for Legendary South African jazz musician Ray Phiri

Jazz ‘Legend’ Musicial, and Guitarist Mr. Raymond Phiri performing live on stage in a concert

Tributes pours in for the renowned Jazz ‘Legend’ Musicial, and Guitarist Mr. Raymond Phiri

By Mamodima Ndlovu

Legendary jazz musician Raymond Chikapa Phiri’s death has affected the nation and all industry leaders alike. 70-year-old Phiri succumbed to lung cancer on Wednesday morning at the Nelspruit Hospital surrounded by his loved ones.

Tributes and messages of condolences from government, the music industry and the public filled the news waves with a bittersweet sense of mourning and celebration for the life of a pioneer.

President Jacob Zuma:

President Jacob Zuma reflected on Phiri’s musical contribution. “He was a musical giant. This is indeed a huge loss for South Africa and the music industry as a whole.”

Phiri was honoured with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for the role he played in the development of music and social transformation in the country.

Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa:

Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa described Phiri as a great musician, inimitable artist and an art activist. He also mentioned Stimela’s contribution to the nation during the struggle.

“Their music was urban, racy and African pop at its best and spoke to the times they lived in. Their songs appealed to new generations of South Africans who came of age in the 1970’s and 1980’s and who stood their ground and strove for freedom in the last decade of apartheid rule.”

Mthethwa expressed with pride how Phiri served right up to the end following an appearance at the Zakifo Musical Festival in the Reunion Islands on 3 June 2017. “He actively supported the idea of a Pan-African platform that brings together the finest music festivals within the Southern Africa region through touring circuits of artists mainly from the African continent,” said Mthethwa.

The Democratic Alliance:

The Democratic Alliance expressed great sadness and sated: “Bra Ray sowed the seeds for a vibrant South African music industry and his untimely departure has left a gap that can never be filled. We have lost a true icon of the soil.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters:

The Economic Freedom Fighters yesterday filled their Twitter page with Phiri’s musical history. The political party commended the legend’s award-winning group Stimela for the political stand they took in the early days of their career.

“The renaming of the group to Stimela was not a coincidence; they were named Stimela because of migration of consciousness.” The Fighters also wrote, “Their music is one of the testaments that in the end, true humanity lives with no boarders.” In conclusion the EFF tweeted, “Taking the time to appreciate the healing captured in (Phiri’s) gifts and talents, may his soul rest in perfect revolutionary peace.”

Social Media:

Social media also trended under the umbrella of Phiri’s legacy.

Songstress and activist Simphiwe Dana tweeted: “Stimela was the heartbeat of South Africa. Since Stimela, no other band has influenced South African politics as they did.”

Award-winning producer and musician Blondie Makhene speaking on ANN7 said, “Which library of information am I going to have to dig into for inspiration except what (Phiri) has already left for me?” To the current generation of musicians, Makhene added, “a giant falls, pick up the spear. The struggle hasn’t stopped in 1994, it actually starts now.”

A devastated fellow musician and friend of Phiri, Sipho Hotstix Mabuse said, “Phiri was one of the best musicians I ever worked with.”

The vibrant Bongo Muffin first lady, Thandiswa Mazwai said, “one day all our great music will be in graves.”