The mainstream Sunday Press published tributes to Ray Chikapa Phiri written by Johnny Masilela. Photo: TK Mashaba

Journalist remembers Ray Phiri


TK Mashaba   l   Views: 118

The BEAT consulting editor Johnny Masilela was in the middle of writing a tribute to his friend and music legend, Ray Chikapa Phiri, for a Johannesburg-based Afrikaans Sunday newspaper, when his mobile rang.

On the other end of the line, he said, was a senior editor at another Jozi newspaper, a high-profile English title also published on Sundays.

“Goodness me, the English editor was passing on a message from her editorial bosses, saying because I have been so close to Bra Ray, that I do a tribute over upwards of 1 000 words,” Masilela explained.

The tribute, which was published last Sunday 16 July, was to be syndicated to the English newspaper’s sister publications and online content in the major centres of Durban and Cape Town. 

He said the Bela-Bela narrative around Phiri stretched back to about a fortnight before the Stimela ensemble leader’s untimely death, at the local township’s Club Paradise, where Masilela was caught up in an argument over the rightful composer of a 1970s ballad.

Masilela said when everybody else argued strongly that the song was composed by the singer, one Mpharanyane, he scooped his mobile and called an old friend: Ray Phiri, and placed the mobile on speaker.

In answer to the question as to who was the real composer, Phiri’s voice crackled into the speaker, declaring none other than the Stimela frontman himself composed that particular song, and not the singer.

In addition to the two mainstream Sunday newspapers, Masilela has been approached by a Pretoria-based website to pay his last respects to his friend, poet and intellectual, Phiri, for whom The BEAT consulting editor was at the embryo stages of a biography.

Masilela and Phiri worked together as board members of the National Arts Council.

9 months ago       21 July 2017