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Ray Phiri remembered as a "lightning rod figure" for SA music

Written by: Neo Koza

As tributes pour in for jazz musician Ray Phiri, South African author Bongani Madondo has remembered him as the heart and soul of the great musical group Stimela and for his dance moves.

Phiri had been battling lung cancer and was being treated at a Nelspruit hospital when he passed away in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

READ: Legendary jazz musician Ray Phiri dies at 70

WATCH: I will always remain in people's heads - Ray Phiri

Besides learning to play a variety of music instruments, including the guitar, piano and drums, the Mpumalanga born artist got his first break as a dancer for the Dark City Sister's in 1962.

He went on to establish the soul music group, the Cannibals in the 1970s before cementing his career with the gold- and platinum-winning Stimela.

He is the kind of artist you thought would be here forever so you can tell your daughters and sons and say I knew this old man. He changed my world.

Bongani Madondo, author

He has done a lot of of things, he was a guitarist, a vocalist but came into showbiz through dance. He joined a band called The Jabavu Queens and before that the Dark City Sister's... he could contort his body into strange shapes and we saw how dance became a major deal whilst he became a major star even before Graceland.

Bongani Madondo, author

Madondo says Phiri's father introduced him to music.

He was raised by different fathers, and went on to become great dad on his own, not only to his daughters and biological children but he fathered a whole lot of musicians. He was a guiding and lightning rod figure in the modern development of pop music from the 1970s until now.

Bongani Madondo, author

Executive director at the South African Music Education Trust, Shadrack Bokaba, spoke about the last 15 years of Phiri's work in the industry.

Ray was very focused on the music education side, we helped him establish the Ray Phiri Arts Institute. He was the sort of person who very in his later years was interested in seeing young people walk in his footsteps.

Shadrack Bokaba, Executive director at the South African Music Education Trust

I also had a chance to serve with him on the National Arts Council where he was very passionate about areas of redress.

Shadrack Bokaba, Executive director at the South African Music Education Trust

Bokaba says he last spoke to Phiri on Friday.

If you know Ray, he always talked about his mother who in the late 90's was approaching 100 and everyone expected him to take some genes from his mom because he looked so young. And so it comes as a shock when you hear such devastating news because I hoped he would pull out of it.

Shadrack Bokaba, Executive director at the South African Music Education Trust

Click on the link below to listen to the full audio....



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