Fresh voice fuels Stimela on

Sam Ndlovu performs with Ray Phiri, who he is going to replace in the band Stimela.
Sam Ndlovu performs with Ray Phiri, who he is going to replace in the band Stimela.
Image: Supplied

Sam Ndlovu has stepped into the shoes of the iconic Ray Phiri as the frontman of Stimela who are back with a new album.

The new offering, Catch The Train, comes approximately a year after the legendary Phiri's death,

In an interview with Sowetan sister publication, TshisaLIVE, the new face of Stimela, who joined the band in 2010, shared his gratitude at being part of the group and talked of what it means to him to be at the forefront of the new release.

"The title, Catch The Train, is exactly what Ray would have wanted, and that is what we have based it on," he said.

"Ray would have wanted to show off and say, 'Hey, I have left the band in capable hands and I have a legacy in them'."

Ndlovu said he felt blessed to have been chosen by Phiri but that it was the spirit of Stimela as a collective that had pushed him to do his very best.

"We knew he wanted us to continue and to show that he has passed on the baton to the younger generation too. The worst I could do personally is fail his memory and the faith he had in me when he brought me into the band."

Ndlovu said he had a lot of adjusting to do after Phiri's passing. "The most difficult thing was the fact that he stood on my right and I stood on his left when performing on stage. The first few shows we did without him I kept looking to my right and there was no one. It was only me.

"It felt lonely, strange and scary but somehow I could hear his voice in my head going, 'Have fun'. Even when we were recording this album I knew he would have wanted us to have fun and carry on his legacy. He would have wanted us to catch the train, as the name of our single goes."

Ndlovu joined the band eight years ago but his story with Stimela began long before he understood who or what Stimela was.

His father's last gift to him was a bass guitar and a microphone, and from that point on his life's direction was determined. The guitar was only the beginning for him, he would go on to play drums, the accordion and,
later, the keyboard.

But all along, he was hiding his voice, until he sang too loud to the wrong (or right people) and they pushed him to explore his singing skills. That's when Phiri was drawn to him.

"The late, great Ray started to notice me and he got to know me when I was the lead singer for my band, Black Chain. From that point on, whenever he was at home in Mpumalanga, he would stop by our rehearsal space and give us tips," Ndlovu said.

"I didn't know at that point that there was anything special that I was doing until I found myself on stage at a show at Thulamahashe Stadium singing and performing with Stimela."

Ndlovu said even though he didn't want to blow his own horn, he was sure the 10-track album would be right up there with the best of Stimela.

"Stimela fans have been patiently waiting for this moment and we are more than thrilled at the milestone achieved," he added.