Music veteran Ray Phiri has lost his battle with lung cancer.
Born on March 23 1947 near Nelspruit in Mpumalanga the 70-year-old musician died in the early hours of the morning on July 12.
His last moments were spent surrounded by close friends and family‚ his brother and family spokesperson Paul Nkanyane told the Sowetan newspaper on Wednesday.
News of Phiri’s failing health was first reported early this week.
He was a founding member of the Cannibals in the 1970s. The group was later renamed Stimela and had created gold and platinum-selling albums like Fire, Passion and Ecstacy (1991), Look, Listen and Decide (1992) as well as the controversial People Don’t Talk So Let’s Talk.
READ: Road-tripping Maputo with Bra Ray
“He was a musical giant. This is indeed a huge loss for South Africa and the music industry as a whole. We are with his family in thoughts and prayers during this trying period,” President Jacob Zuma said.
Phiri was also honoured with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver for his sterling contribution to the South African music industry and the successful use of arts as an instrument of social transformation.
National orders are the highest awards that a country, through its president, bestows on its citizens and eminent foreign nationals.
“We danced, laughed and cried to the comforting sounds of Zwakala, Whispers in the Deep and Phinda Mzala,” said Refiloe Nt’sekhe, DA national spokesperson.
“In the 1970s Phiri’s music spoke to issues that are still affecting our people today. Bra Ray sowed the seeds for a vibrant South African music industry and his untimely departure has left a gap that can never be filled. We have lost a true icon of the soil.”
READ: Catching up with Ray Phiri
As news of his death broke, South Africans took to Twitter to mourn his passing.
Just last month the jazz, fusion and mbaqanga musician known for songs such as Zwakala (Come to me) – Siyaya Phambili and Sishovingolovane – was announced as one of the performers at the Rocking the Daisies music festival which was set to take place later this year.
In November 2003 Phiri survived a tragic car accident that claimed the life of his wife, Daphney.
Phiri, Daphney, their daughter, who was eight months old and two friends, Larry Myathaza and Lindelani Mathonsi, were returning home to Barberton after a weekend away when the crash occurred near Badplaas.
The crash left Phiri in a critical condition but his daughter, Linhle, survived the accident unscathed.
The accident was not the couple’s first. Daphney was hospitalised in 2002 when the family’s Volvo collided with another car in Nelspruit.
Phiri was also badly injured in 1987 in a crash that claimed the lives of his band manager and six others. The accident so traumatised Phiri that he only re-emerged from musical “exile” 11 years later.
Ray Phiri performs at the Legancy Live experience in Kramerville, Sandton, in 2014. Picture: Lungelo Mbulwana
Ray Phiri and singer Mandisa Dlanga at the Legancy Live experience in Kramerville, Sandton, in 2014. Picture: Lungelo Mbulwana
Ray Phiri performing in 2013 at the South African Traditional Music Achievement Awards.Picture: Foto24
Veterans in the music industry, Sipho Hotstix Mabuse and Ray Chikapa Phiri, share a joke in 2016.Picture: Jabu Khumalo/Daily Sun
Ray Phiri during an interview earlier this year.Picture: Mariana Malan/Die Burger
Ray Phiri as he will always be remembered.Picture: Linda Longhurst/The Witness
An emotional Ray Phiri at the memorial service of Nana Coyote, Stimela’s lead vocalist, who died in 2010. Picture: Jabu Kumalo
Ray Phiri of Stimela pulls the crowds at the Ugu Jazz Festival in 2003. Picture: Alex Mkhize