Move back home made Ray Phiri 'poor'

Ray Phiri performing at the Zakifo Music Festival in Durban on Friday night. Pic : Thuli Dlamini. © Sowetan.
Ray Phiri performing at the Zakifo Music Festival in Durban on Friday night. Pic : Thuli Dlamini. © Sowetan.

Late legendary musician, Ray Phiri had apparently bemoaned how the Mpumalanga government had made him relocate from Gauteng to the province so he could be "poor" before his death.

Phiri died on Wednesday last week at the Nelspruit Mediclinic from lung cancer before realising his dream of a music academy.

According to Phiri's friend, Willies Sithole, the musician recently complained bitterly that after he had agreed to return to his home province to help set up the academy, little had happened.

"Ray was a god of guitars as he would tell me. He once said to me: 'These people of the province called me to be in Mpumalanga just to be broke'," Sithole said.

Phiri lived in Boksburg in Gauteng until he came up with the idea of establishing an art school in Mpumalanga to teach music to the youth.

Sithole said Phiri was passionate about transferring his musical skill to others.

"He always said his dream was to transfer his skill to youth in the province."

Sithole complained that in the province people were only celebrated when they were dead.

Former premier Mathews Phosa confirmed his administration planned to build Phiri an academy.

"Stimela's music for me dates back from the time of exile. We would listen to them while in exile and have hope that one day we will be home ... When I was premier of the province Ray came to my office, we spoke and tried to implement the art school. But when I left it couldn't be carried out, and we could be talking of a big bunch of artists coming from the hands of Phiri," said Phosa.

Department of arts and culture spokeswoman Sibongile Nkosi said they did not abandoned the arts institute plan. "We are still on it."

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