Famous South African jazz musician Ray Phiri died in a hospital in Nelspruit Wednesday morning, according to SABC. Times LIVE reported that Phiri died at the age of 70 after a two-month battle with lung cancer.
Family spokesperson Paul Nkanyane confirmed Phiri’s death to TshisaLIVE and said that singer and guitar player passed at around 3:30 a.m., surrounded by family and friends.
Phiri was born in Mpumalanga, where he grew up dancing to his troubadour father’s puppet shows. In 1962, he danced for the legendary Dark City Sisters. Through that gig, he was able to save enough money to go to Johannesburg.
Phiri was a founding member of the soul group the Cannibals in the 70’s. After the Cannibals disbanded, Phiri formed the group Stimela. Stimela achieved critical and commercial success with gold and platinum-selling albums like Fire, Passion and Ecstacy (1991) and Look, Listen and Decide (1992).
In 1995, Paul Simon asked Phiri to be a part of his Graceland project. Phiri also collaborated on Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints album. Phiri performed with Simon on stages such as Central Park and Madison Square Garden on the album’s subsequent tour. Phiri also performed for Simon’s Graceland anniversary tour in 2012.