South African Jazz legend Ray Phiri has passed away

South African Jazz legend Ray Phiri has passed away

South African Jazz legend Ray Phiri has passed away

The guitarist, producer and vocalist rose to fame when he featured on Paul Simon's Graceland album in 1986.

Tributes started pouring in for the veteran singer who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. His mother was Malawian.

The Department Of Arts And Culture says Ray Phiri remained an activist beyond the liberation struggle through his continued fight for transformation in the music industry. He was a founding member of the Cannibals in the 1970s. Recorded in 1985 and released the following year, Graceland was put together amidst the UN-approved boycotts of the apartheid state, a position which had also been endorsed by Artists United Against Apartheid, an influential group founded by guitarist Steven van Zandt and whose ranks included the likes of Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen and George Clinton.

But at home, Phiri was also celebrated as the co-founder of the influential group Stimela, a popular fusion band that melded smooth jazz with mbaqanga: an energetic, rhythm-heavy genre that itself married local styles with jazz.

Robin Baard, a spokesperson for Nelspruit Medi-Clinic in Mpumalanga, South Africa confirmed the news to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Ray Phiri of Stimela pulls the crowds at the Ugu Jazz Festival in 2003. Phiri played guitar on five tracks, including the global hit You Can Call Me Al. Graceland won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1987 and appears on many critics lists as one of the best albums of the 1980s.

During the 1990s, Phiri continued his career with Stimela, as well as recorded solo albums and collaborated with other South African and global artists, including Miriam Makeba and United Kingdom jazz musician Freddy Gardner.

"Ray Phiri has left this world and it is a painful morning for us", he said. His live performance prowess with Simon was described by Rolling Stone magazine as "emotive and gifted".

In November 2003 Phiri survived a tragic auto accident that claimed the life of his wife, Daphney.

In an interview with The Sowetan earlier this month Phiri asked for space and privacy during his sickbed.

Fans have taken to social media to share tributes, see below.

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