President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday mourned the death of musician Ray Phiri.
“He was a musical giant. This is indeed a huge loss for South Africa and the music industry as a whole,” he said in a statement.
Phiri lost his battle to lung cancer, sending shockwaves through the local music industry.
He died in Mbombela, the town where he was born 70 years ago.
Zuma recalled Phiri’s music career as a jazz, fusion and mbaqanga artist.
He was a founder member of the Cannibals, which was later joined by the late soul singer Mpharanyana.
“When the Cannibals disbanded, he founded Stimela (Steam Train), with whom he conceived gold and platinum-winning albums like Fire, Passion and Ecstasy , Look, Listen and Decide as well as the controversial People Don’t Talk So Let’s Talk ,” Zuma said.
In 2011, Zuma honoured Phiri with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for his contribution to the music industry.
According to SA History Online, Phiri joined the global Graceland tour, headed by American singer Paul Simon, to mobilise support for the struggle for liberation and to promote dialogue across cultures.
He later earned a Grammy for his participation in the tour.
In an interview with City Press in May, Phiri revealed music’s ongoing magical effect on him, despite his age.
“Music is spiritual. It provides healing and reflection, and it should add value. Emotion should shine through, and a healthy respect for the audience is required,” he said.
Zuma said his thoughts and prayers were with Phiri’s family in this time.
“May his soul rest in peace.”