Ray Phiri, the man who graced Paul Simon‘s hit Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints LPs, has sadly passed away in his hometown, at a clinic in Nelspruit. The veteran singer had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He had been in and out for hospital in the previous months. Word has it that he had asked his family to let him “suffer [in peace with my] pain, on my own with my dignity.”
The singer rose to prominence with his band, aptly titled Stimela (“train” in the Nguni language), which blended jazz with Afropop. under the apartheid era , Stimela released controversial songs which were banned from time to time , but that did not deter them from speaking through music. Their global claim to fame when they worked together with Paul Simon.
The ANC had this to say “Ray Phiri was a voice for the voiceless and a legend of our time,” it reads. “An immensely gifted composer, vocalist and guitarist, he breathed consciousness and agitated thoughts of freedom through his music … He has played his role in unearthing and support new talent in the industry and has been an ardent and vocal advocate of the call for greater investment in local content development and the development of the industry as a whole.”