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South African jazz legend Ray Phiri dies

South African jazz legend Ray Phiri has died at the age of 70 after a two-month battle with lung cancer.

Before his death, the musician appealed to the media to respect his privacy
Before his death, the musician appealed to the media to respect his privacy (Gallo Images)

The guitarist, producer and vocalist rose to fame when he featured on Paul Simon’s Graceland album in 1986.

He was admitted to hospital two weeks ago and died in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Family spokesperson Paul Nkanyane says he was surrounded by friends and relatives at the clinic, in the north-eastern city of Nelspruit.

Mr Phiri’s condition became public this week when a friend and fellow musician started a crowdfunding initiative to help pay for his medical bills.

In an interview with The Sowetan newspaper earlier this month, Phiri said: “Let me suffer [in peace with my] pain, on my own with my dignity.”

Tributes have been pouring in for Phiri on Twitter, with people using the hashtag #RIPRayPhiri:

Before reaching international fame with Graceland, Phiri was already an established musician in South Africa and lead singer of 1970s band Stimela.

The group’s afro-fusion sounds combined jazz with mbaqanga – a Zulu musical style with rural roots. BBC

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