Ray Phiri (1947-2017)

South African jazz legend Ray Phiri has died at the age of 70.

The guitarist, producer and vocalist is most remembered in North America for his contribution to Paul Simon’s Graceland album in 1986. He was also the founding member of the Cannibals in the 1970s and Stimela, producing gold and platinum-selling albums: Fire, Passion and Ecstacy (1982), Look, Listen and Decide (1986) as well as the controversial People Don’t Talk So Let’s Talk. The group’s afro-fusion sounds combined jazz with mbaqanga – a Zulu musical style with rural roots.

Among his many musical accomplishments, Phiri also recieved the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver, honouring his contribution to the South African arts and music industry while using his gifts as an instrument for social transformation.

Admitted to hospital two weeks ago, he died early Wednesday morning after a two-month battle with lung cancer.

As reported by the BBC, Phiri told The Sowetan newspaper in an interview earlier this month, “Let me suffer [in peace with my] pain, on my own with my dignity.”

Watch some of his performances with Paul Simon on the Graceland project and also Stimela: