News / South Africa

Virginia Keppler
2 minute read
13 Jul 2017
6:05 am

Phiri was due to perform in the Caribbean later this month

Virginia Keppler

The musician was due to arrive in Trinidad and Tobago on July 25 to begin rehearsals with the Massy All Stars Steel Orchestra.

Caption: The late Ray Phiri and Chaile Seretse in an upbeat mood in Johannesburg last month when they were making final preparations for the Caribbean trip and performance for later this month. Photo Supplied.

The Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago (ESCTT) will dedicate this year’s Pan Night at the Emancipation Village to the late music giant Ray Phiri, to honour his memory.

Phiri, 70, passed away yesterday morning after losing the battle against lung cancer. He had been admitted to a Nelspruit hospital.

ESCTT chairman Khafra Kambon said the organisation was deeply saddened by Phiri’s passing.

He said the musician was due to arrive in Trinidad and Tobago on July 25 to begin rehearsals with the Massy All Stars Steel Orchestra and local choirs Jeune Agape and Signal Hill for a proposed CD and musical tour of selected African countries.

“An initial performance of two songs was planned to launch the international project at this year’s Pan Night organised by the ESCTT as a special feature of our 25th anniversary commemoration. All were looking forward to the implementation of this dynamic international musical collaboration,” Kambon said.

Chaile Seretse, who was supposed to travel with Phiri later this month, said he was devastated by Phiri’s passing.

“Ray Phiri was very excited and looking forward to the project. His untimely passing has broken our hearts but his music lives on. As the coordinator of the project I am grateful that organisers of the event made contact with Ray’s wife and family immediately after his passing and issued the press release to Caribbean newspapers and The Citizen in South Africa,” Seretse said.

He expressed his happiness that this year’s Pan Night at the Emancipation Village will be dedicated to Ray.

“I learnt a lot from Ray Phiri and will miss him dearly. May his soul rest in peace,” he said.

Kambon added that just over a week ago, the ESCTT was about to deliver a proposal to a Trinidad and Tobago company seeking sponsorship for local components of the initial phase of the project when they learnt from their South African partners that Phiri had been admitted to hospital.

Phiri enjoyed a music career that spanned four decades and had some of his music banned by the apartheid regime in the 1980s. He was born near Nelspruit in 1947 and rose to fame as a singer in the group Stimela.

In 1985, Paul Simon asked Ray along with Ladysmith Black Mambazo to join his Graceland project, which helped the South African musicians to make names for themselves abroad.

“Our condolences go to the family, friends and musical partners of this famous South African who was willingly preparing to add to Trinidad and Tobago’s rich musical heritage; to those who helped us to organizs this special collaboration and to all the global fans and friends of Ray Phiri,” Kambon said.