Windhoek-Namibian musicians and music fans have expressed sadness at the passing of well-known South African musician Ray Phiri, who founded the band Stimela. Phiri died yesterday at Nelspruit Hospital after a protracted battle with lung cancer. He was 70 years old.
The musician was known as a vocalist and guitarist with great flexibility in jazz-fusion, percussion and for mastering many South African music styles. His death is regarded as a big loss, not just in South Africa, but also Namibia and around the world.
“He was very kind, humble and someone I looked up to as a great musician. This is indeed a very big loss to the music industry,” says Bass Guitarist of the Ugly Creatures Music Group, Helois !!Hoabeb. He said he met Phiri on a few occasions and always regarded him as a person who can share his passion of music with other musicians.
“His aspiration was to see all the artists growing in this industry. I recollect our OR Tambo talk in Jozi talking about their song ‘You Will Know’, also called the condom song, and how passionate he sounded about curbing HIV/AIDS using music. Such is human life and the borrowed time we enjoyed,” says !!Hoabeb.
Manneckey Khoe-Aob of M-Connection Fame says having had an opportunity to share a stage with him at various gigs in the past he never thought he would leave so soon. “This is a very big loss to Namibia and to the rest of the world. He has inspired us so much when it comes to music and we will always cherish him,” Manneckey said.
Phiri, who was born in March 1947 in Mpumalanga to a Malawian immigrant worker and South African guitarist, nicknamed “Just Now” Phiri, became a founding member of the Cannibals in the 1970s.
When the Cannibals disbanded, Ray founded his own band, Stimela, with whom he conceived gold and platinum-selling albums like Fire, Passion and Ecstasy (1991), Look, Listen and Decide (1992), as well as the controversial one titled People Don’t Talk, So Let’s Talk.
Phiri had over the years been involved in a series of car accidents that had an impact on his personal life and musical career. His wife was killed in a car accident in 2002, with him narrowly escaping serious injury.