Sowetan

Phiri a hero of our time and country

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Ray Chikapa Phiri has sadly left this world, but his words and music will live on and inspire generation­s to come.

When the brutal apartheid government silenced our freedom fighters, Phiri musically led the way.

He chose to conscienti­se the masses through his songs and keep the fires of the revolution burning when many artists elected to tow the line and churn out purely entertainm­ent content.

As a result, the former Stimela band leader’s music was banned by the regime. Still he was unfazed and remained unmoved, reminding people through song about the importance of the revolution and the quest for freedom for all.

Phiri was more than just a musician. He was an activist, a storytelle­r and a court jester who refused to be silenced.

He placed the welfare of the black masses ahead of his own personal interest and safety.

Songs like Singajindi reminded and encouraged people not to give up the fight for freedom, because without it we had nothing and we remained foreigners in our own motherland.

The mere structure of Stimela was fashioned to that of a broader movement, where there were only a few core band members and various musicians were incorporat­ed, mentored and allowed to branch out on their own, to chart their own paths, yet still remained part of the broader church, so to speak.

Phiri was, to borrow from his most popular song, Whispers in the Deep, a soul that whispered in the deep, and echoed throughout the motherland, telling the story of the lonely and beating the rhythm of the free.

Many people were politicall­y conscienti­sed through Phiri’s music as his lyrics appealed to both the educated and the illiterate.

His poetic language was simple but the thought behind the words was deep – they made the listener think.

He was the Shakespear­e of our time, weaving his magic coated in beautiful compositio­ns, making his music and message hard to ignore, even by the most hardened mind. This is why even the apartheid regime could not ignore him.

It is said that heroes die, but their legacy lives on. Phiri is one such hero.

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