Ray Phiri (born 23 March 1947, Hermansberg, near Nelspruit, South Africa – died 12 July 2017, Nelspruit, South Africa), whose guitar work reached a worldwide audience through his distinctive contributions to Paul Simon‘s hit Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints LPs, has died at the age of 70.
The BBC brings word of Phiri’s death, which took place at a clinic in the South African city of Nelspruit two months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He’d been hospitalized for several weeks, during which time he was the unwilling focus of a crowdfunding campaign to help defray his medical costs; according to an interview excerpted in the BBC’s report, he asked fans to let him “suffer [in peace with my] pain, on my own with my dignity.”
Phiri’s last public request reflects his lifelong approach to dealing with tragedy and misfortune. Among South Africa’s most widely respected musicians, he rose to prominence with his group Stimela (“train” in the Nguni language), a pioneering fusion band whose blend of smooth jazz with the Afropop mbaqanga sound proved popular — although not with the South African government in the apartheid era, during which Stimela’s records were occasionally banned and the state reportedly even tried spying on the group.
International stardom for Phiri proved somewhat fleeting — although his beautiful tone is instantly recognizable to anyone who listened to Simon’s music during the Graceland and Rhythm of the Saintsera, his tenure in Simon’s band was fairly brief given the massive success those albums enjoyed, and in later years, he alleged that he’d never been fairly credited or compensated for his work. Speaking with the Sunday Times, he spoke of his feud with Simon, but concluded — as he so often did — on an optimistic note.
“There’s bad blood with Paul Simon,” said Phiri. “He never gave me credit on the album for the songs I wrote, and financially we hardly got any royalties. But maybe I wouldn’t have been able to handle all that wealth. I sleep at night, I have my sanity and I enjoy living. The big rock ‘n’ roll machine did not munch me.”
In more recent years, Phiri continued to deal with personal struggles, including the death of his third wife in a 2014 car crash, yet he saw his musical legacy continue to grow — particularly at home, where the fall of South Africa’s racist apartheid regime opened an era in which his talents were not only acknowledged but valued by the state. In the wake of his passing, the African National Congress issued a statement praising Phiri’s inestimable contributions to the national culture.
“Ray Phiri was a voice for the voiceless and a legend of our time,” it reads. “An immensely gifted composer, vocalist and guitarist, he breathed consciousness and agitated thoughts of freedom through his music … He has played his role in unearthing and support new talent in the industry and has been an ardent and vocal advocate of the call for greater investment in local content development and the development of the industry as a whole.”
Getatchew passed away today. At the age of 81 and after a musical career of 68 years. He was a truely unique saxophone player. Born in the countryside of Ethiopia, he heard the saxophone on the radio at the age of 13 and went to Addis Abeba straight away. He wanted to play saxophone! And soon after that he got himself into the Municipality Band. Later he played in the Haile Selassie Orchestra’s, the National Theatre Orchestra and more.
Since 2004 he played regularly with The Ex. It was his choice after hearing us at one of our festivals. He recognized something in our music which reminded him of the early groups he was in, like the Fetan Band (Speed Band). He loved playing with us and for us it was also an incredible experience. He was always totally himself, full-on intense and dedicated. We played more than 100 concerts and made two beautiful albums together.
The last few years, his health was not very good. He couldn’t really go on tour anymore. As a kind of farewell concert for his fans, we organized a big event in the National Theatre in Addis Abeba. He got lots of attention and respect that night: 1500 people in the audience, three TV stations and a legendary concert. Getatchew was playing while sitting on a chair, but his playing was stronger than ever.
His whole life was devoted to music. With his unique sound and approach he leaves behind an eternal inspiration!
Hello World. Today’s post is a longread so may I suggest to take your time.
At the start of February the SA Menswear Fall 2016 Week took place in Cape Town, as in other capitals of the world. After Paris, Milan and London, the African continent sets its mark on international fashion. Fashion is flourishing as never before in Africa, a legion of ambitious young fashion designers are evolving towards national and international recognition and showing their collections to local and foreign buyers and press. The first rows are complemented by an enthusiastic young audience of bloggers and fashionistas eager to see the latest fashion.
And the amazing thing is that this actually sells. A new black middle-class has the money and interest to actually buy the clothes of African designers. Design boutiques and ultra-luxurious shopping centres offer a shopping extravanga never seen before and are popping up around the big South African cities. Should you be looking for a 40’s Christian Dior jacket, a Balenciaga ballgown from the 50’s, or Jordache bellbottoms, then your retro fix will be satisfied at The Flea Market at the Market Theatre in Newtown, the cultural hub of Johannesburg.
But it’s more than just expensive designer clothes or original vintage haute couture. Fashion is hot not only for style-concious hipsters but is regarded as a highly effective way to create an own identity. It is also a firm confirmation that one who dresses well has style. And the young ‘bornfrees’-the generation that was born after 1991-have style, radiate confidence and success. Besides that, African traditions and the heritage of the ancestors are en vogue.
That is reflected in the book The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950 by Santu Mofokeng (Published by Steidl in 2013. ISBN 978-3869303109)
For this book Santu Mofokeng collected private photographs which urban black working and middle-class families in South Africa commissioned between 1890 and 1950, a time when the government was creating policies towards those designated as “natives”. Painterly in style, the images evoke the artifices of Victorian photography. Some of them are fiction, a creation of the artist in terms of setting, props, clothing and pose – yet there is no evidence of coercion. We believe these images, as they reveal something about how these people imagined themselves. In this work Mofokeng analyses the sensibilities, aspirations and self-image of the black population and its desire for representation and social recognition in times of colonial rule and suppression. The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890-1950 is drawn from an ongoing research project of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
DREAM BIG, ACT COOL
Every year The Street Cred Festival brings a buzz to Johannesburg, an excitement in street-culture that unites the hottest and cool young fashionistas and designers. Streetgangs like the Swenkas, Smarties (Soweto), Isokothan (a gang modeled after the Urhobo People of Niger Delta) show that their passion for fashion is not only obsessive by clothes but at the same time their style manifests a passive aggressive form of resistance.
Although financially limited this young generation wants to create their own look, to show the world an interpretation of Africa, a tribute to their ancestors while looking forward to the future. It is hopeful and positive. What is Africa, Who am I as an African, those are the big questions that engage this new generation. Bloggers like Sartist reflect the search for a new horizon of fashion and dopeness.
LES SAPEURS & NYC GANGSTA STYLE
Each new movement has obviously predecessors. Les Sapeurs became somewhat of a household name in Congo in the 60’s with their brash dandyism. In New York it was designer Dapper Dan of Harlem who created the flamboyant look and style of rappers like LL Cool J and other heroes of the early hip hop scene in early 80’s.
Right on 125th street in Harlem USA, sat a custom high-end clothing boutique owned by Mr. Dapper Dan. Before Kanye, Juelz, Fabolous and some other well known rappers wore Gucci and Louis Vutton, Dapper Dan in the 80’s and 90’s planted the seed for fashion in the hip hop culture. He created one of a kind customized high-end clothing that incorporated highly recognizable accessory logos like those of Gucci and Louis Vuitton, featuring them in non-traditional ways. His pieces were sold for thousands of dollars, and created a sense of what’s cool, what’s new in the streets and ‘in hip-hop’.
The designer describes his way of working as ‘sampling’, an unique interpretation of mixing existing designs and logos with his own interpretation. Dan Dapper ” I opened my workshop in ’82. First I would take little garment bags by Louis Vuitton and Gucci and cut them up, but that wouldn’t suffice for complete garments. So I said, “I have to figure out how to print this on fabric and leather.” I went through trial and error. I didn’t even know we were messing with dangerous chemicals—the U.S. government eventually outlawed the chemicals I was using. We made these huge silk screens so I could do a whole garment. A Jewish friend of mine helped me science out the secret behind the ink, and that was it.”
His designs specified the look of hip-hop artists, sporters and those incurred by gangsters. “Gangsters. That’s who I grew up with. Middle-class blacks couldn’t accept what I was doing—you had to be of a revolutionary spirit. Who would be more like that than gangsters? And who would have the money? Hip-hop artists didn’t have any money. They used to wait until the gangsters left the store before they could come in and ask what the gangsters wore. Everybody follows the gangsters. The athletes came before the hip-hop artists. Mark Jackson, Walter Berry. I’ve got pictures of NBA players that I can’t even remember their names. The athletes had money earlier that the hip-hop artists.
FAVORITE CREATION: The “Alpo Coat” [for drug dealer Alberto Martinez] and the Diane Dixon coat [for Olympic athlete Diane Dixon].
Ozwald Boateng is a London fashion designer of Ghanaian descent and co-founder of Made in Africa Foundation, which supports and funds studies for large-scale infrastructure projects across Africa.
Boateng is known for his classic British menswear, done in warm colors. He is considered one of the most successful designers of men’s fashion in recent years. His big break came in 2005 when he worked as designer for the French fashion house Givenchy and dressed actor Jamie Foxx for the Oscars.
His first show in Ghana caused a small revolution. Just like in 2013 during NYC Fashion Week where Boateng showed mainly African prints processed in classic men’s suits on black models. Boateng’s explains his vision on style; “Colonialism has done little good for Africa but it brought the typical Western sense of style and elegance to Africa. Mixed with local traditions this sensibility created a truely new African identity.”
During the same week in NYC South African born designer Gavin Rajah brought the fantasy element of fashion back to the runway with creations that were eclectic and high glamour. Again, black models ruled the catwalk.
DO NOT MAKE WHAT IS THERE, MAKE WHAT IS NOT THERE
Is the motto of label ACF (Art Comes First/Always Cut First). ACF is an exciting innovative concept that typifies the New Black Dandyism.
In their vision a modern day gentleman stands for Energy, Style, Power and Pride.
With a collection they call “Dance”, Sam Lambert & Shaka Maidoh of the ACF now launch Avec ces Freres. Avec ces Freres inaugural range sees the duo manifest the authentic spirit of the ACF within a focused assortment of interrelated styles. The essential root of the ACF’s style fraternity is their shared vision of the modern gentlemen in a new age. Elemental to this notion is a zealous commitment to travel and the belief that a near constant state of travel leads to a near constant state of learning. Travel is a journey of discovery. Discovery is the porthole to knowledge. -And the sensation experienced during moments of true discovery and the acquisition of knowledge is equal parts cerebral, physical and spiritual. Discovery delivers “little hits of wonder”, it injects a lasting spring in our step and it makes us want to smile and smile, to jump and jump, to dance and dance.
Lambert and Maidoh have worked to vitalize this simple notion in a fresh travel-friendly wardrobe crafted with intelligence, curiosity and good intention.
From the press release of their Autumn/Winter 15 Lookbook
Dark Models dominate World’s Fashion Weeks catwalks…
Jimi Ogunlaja -Sunday Times 7 Feb 16
Akuol De Mabior-sunday times 7 feb 16
SA Menswear Week Autumn 2016
There are 50 shades of grey, and perhaps even more shades of black. And the blacker the better as South African designers scramble for darker-hued models who are regarded as ‘edgy and classy’. About half the models at the South African Menswear Autumn/Winter 2016 in Cape Town were very dark. They walked for designers including Craig Jacobs, Julia M’Poko of Mo’Ko Elosa and Jenevieve Lyons.
Popular on local runways is Jimi Ogunlaja, a Nigerian-born model and the face of 46664 Apparel, who has been walking ramps in South Africa for brands including Fabiani, Carducci and Craig Port since 2008.
Source; The Sunday Times 7th February 2016
During the Paris Fashion 2016 Week black models also graced the Balmain Fall 2016 Ready to Wear catwalk, although the look and wide choice of models was based on the now platinum Kim Kardashian West. Her husband Kanye was sitting front row. His fashion-show-slash-record-listening-slash-party in New York last month drew 20,000 New Yorkers into Madison Square Garden on a freezing Thursday afternoon. The premiere of Yeezy Season 3 and stream of his new album, The Life of Pablo, proved to be the event of the New York Fashion 2016 week—with people lining up hours beforehand to enter. Young, old, invited or not, Kanye fans patiently waited for the doors to open. And once they did it was madness. The power of commercial streetstyle!
Lupita Nyong’o, one of the hottest black actresses of the moment walked onstage of the Late Night With Seth Meyers-talkshow in a tomato red Balmain power suit. Lupita Nyong’o is a Kenyan actress and film director. She made her American film debut in 2013 in Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave. She won an Oscar for her supporting role as Patsey. But movie stars, popstars or fashion designers with African roots are not the only forces to dominate fashion in 2016, the biggest influence remains the First Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama.
things move fast in NYC. Faster than a devoted collector can handle sometimes. On my last safari in NYC I noticed that an update to diggin’ in NYC -top 5 record shops-is necessary. Quite a walk!
New location checked 12th October 2015
Academy Records Annex
85 Oak Street, Brooklyn, NY 11222
A year ago my favourite recordshop re-located to Oak Street, a few blocks more up north. It’s quite a walk from the subway but the scenics of the river and the skyline of Manhattan on a clear sunny day are just mindblowing.
Change trains at Union Square Station for L Train, stop Bedford Avenue. Leave the subway, cross the street and go down to Berry Street, then continue along the waterfront. Long walk but soothing after the huzz&buzz of Manhattan, quite unreal. It felt like stepping out in a different world onto a movie set.
The new Academy Annex is airy with high ceilings, nice wide spacing of bins, even a few listening posts. Second hand vinyl galore here…although not as huge in stock as in bygone days. The shop remains a well recommended address in NYC with daily fresh supply at reasonable prices. I dug the broad selection of vinyl in every genre.Rare vintage records abundant on display on the walls. A limited supply of new produced vinyl in the rock genre is available. The extra attraction are the ‘dollarbins’; -3 for $ 5 second hand vinyl. Many DJs search for house 12” and disco classics here.
Rough Trade NYC
64 North 9th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Housed in a big old warehouse along the quays of the East River a new branch of the famed UK record label Rough Trade opened within walking distance of Academy Annex. A big record shop on the main floor, and a concert hall as extra attraction. British indie bands and a wide variety of American artists find a shelter here at night. See the signs on the walls for a daily calendar.
The shop is huge and looks like a cocoon of hi- polished metal stands filled with the latest import and 180 grams vinyl reissues !! An exemplary stocked selection of all brand new published vinyl in all genres. Rough Trade rules the bins here for sure but what a highly surprising selection of music can be found. There is even one tiny square meter of selected vintage vinyl, for serious cratediggers only.
the ADE -Amsterdam Dance Event-, the largest dance conference and festival in the world starts this Wednesday 14th October 2015. 3,000 participants –professionals from around the world-are expected and the clubs and venues will be inhabited by an estimated 350,000 visitors. Now that EDM (Electronic Dance Music) has become mainstream worldwide the program will showcase the biggest dj-stars over a number of five nights. But mainstream commercial big money music is not only what’s up. This year the focus is strongly on the booming electronic music scenes of Africa as well. High time for Mzansi House!
In the fringe of the festival a small selection of hot and happening African music can be heard. In addition, the documentary “Future Sound of Mzansi”, about current South African dance music, is on show in De Balie.
DJ / producer Black Coffee: “There is no specific sound going on in Johannesburg, everything is happening. Commercial house, deep house, all kinds of house. Everyone has their own favourite sound. All I can say, because we’re African, it just revolves around rhythms. The rhythm gives us hope. ”
The first raves in the early 90s emerged in South Africa as Black Coffee remembers. The 39-year-old DJ began ten years ago and has become the most famous DJ/producer from South Africa.
Belgian/Dutch DJ/producer Eddy De Clercq played on one of the first raves in Durban,”Mission to Mars” in 1996, and is very impressed by Black Motion: “That to me is the ultimate South African house group. Especially live, when they perform with a band featuring some very strong percussionists and singers. Their sound is not typical Electronic Dance Music but relates more to the original house-vibe. Sexy and spiritual. Black Motion makes the most melodious jazzy house and their driving rhythms are just irresistible. Listen to their track “Rainbow” for instance, which is more pop oriented house music, such an innovative way of creating dance music. ”
Black Coffee & Friends perform on October 16 in Radion, Amsterdam. Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band with DJ Afrobot on October 17 at Pan-amafropeans in OT301 and on October 18 at Danse Danse in Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam. DJ Eddy De Clercq mixed this compilation of his favourite tracks of Mzansi House especially for Soul Safari. Hear some of the best tracks by South Africa’s Black Motion, Culoe De Song….and more.
Black Motion ft XoliM-Rainbow
Culoe De Song ft Shana- Amasiko
Black Motion ft Mckenzie-Mother of Earth (intro)
Black Motion ft Zulu -Bhana Shilolo
Black Motion ft XoliM-Set Me Free (main mix)
Black Motion ft Mckenzie-Mother of Earth
Black Motion -Bilouwa
Black Motion ft Fearless Boys & Udu -Black Channels
Black Motion ft Celimpilo -Kakaramba
Cathy Battistessa -Une Nouvelle Humanite (Da Capo Touch)
Culoe De Song ft Busi Mhlongo -Wabeba
It seemed someone had performed a rain dance as the rains came pouring down merciless last sunday. No wonder we were soaking wet when we arrived at the Douglas Ngange Mboba Memorial Hall in New Brighton, a township near Port Elizabeth, thanks to an invite from Diane Thram, who has been researching jazz in New Brighton since 2009.
We had come for an event in honour of singer Nomzamo Mkhuzo (b. 1938), one of South Africa’s grand divas of jazz. And we were among the first to arrive. In two’s and three’s several musicians arrived with their instruments, the soundchecking had begun. Local musicians and singers were expected to come and play for free that afternoon, as a fundraiser for Nomzamo Mkhuzo.
The benefit concert was organized by Vulyewa Luzipho, a vocalist who is a longstanding member of The Jazz Divas aka Metro Jazz Queens, residing in Port Elizabeth. This vocal group started performing in 2004 and is the moniker for the united talents of Shirley Lebakeng, Vulyewa Luzipho, Welakazi (Webro) Mosia and Nomzamo Mkhuzo who was a member until she became too frail. All of these vocalists were present and performed acappella that day – showing of their immense talent as jazz singers.
After a long wait, the concert was opened by keyboard player Jury Ntshinga, who sang a wonderful version of the jazz standard ‘Moody’s Mood’. Vocalist Thandeka Marwanqa joined him to make the rendition even richer.
Then veteran saxophone player Patrick Pasha came on stage and introduced Nomzamo.He remembered some great moments of his dear friend, how they grew up in houses where church hymns were sung every Sunday. Local songs in Xhosa were popular with the whole family, and records by Ella Fitzgerald were played. ‘She was my biggest influence, I adored her music.’ says Nomzamo Mkhuzo who grew up listening to Ella’s records. Despite the fact that her father thought she was too young, she started her career as a vocalist with the Barnacle Bills Big Band when only 16 years old. Her talent was already apparent, she was born to sing. Nomzamo went on to tour extensively with the Junior Jazzmen throughout the late 50’s. Later she teamed up with her husband, guitarist Jamani Skweyana. They recorded for SABC as the ‘J-J Quartet’. Nomzamo is known for her powerful voice and ability to capture a crowd with the energy she brings to her singing. She was very popular through the 70s and 80s especially for her jazz compositions sung in Xhosa addressing social issues in tunes that embody New Brighton jazz. Nomzamo was a founding member of the Metro Jazz Queens in 2004 and continues to perform occasionally, most recently at her 75th birthday (25 May 2013) hosted by her musician collegues and friends at the Red Location Museum.
Nomzamo is now 78 and although she is frail and confined to a wheelchair, she has lost none of her strenght of voice nor the willpower to perform.
Diane Thram, director of the International Library of African Music (ILAM) researched the history of jazz vocalists, big bands and what followed on the jazz scene in New Brighton from the 1940s-90s. This project was initiated as part of the ILAM-Red Location oral history project that culminated with curation of the ‘Generations of Jazz’ permanent exhibition at the Red Location Museum in 2013. Nomzamo Mkhuzo was one of the first musicians interviewed. Diane Thram discovered that Nomzamo Mkhuzo was still alive and lived in a rundown small cement house, in poor conditions. That was back in 2009. Nomzamo’s singing is documented on 2 concert DVDS created by ILAM from their documentation of two concerts produced as part of the oral history project, the first in March 2010 entitled ‘Jazz Heritage Concert’ and the second for the opening of the ‘Generations of Jazz’ exhibition in June 2013. Nomzamo sings solo and with the Jazz Divas on both DVDs. Locals know Nomzamo – those of her generation have never forgotten her and her powerful voice. For younger musicians involved in the concerts, it was a discovery of one of the great voices of jazz for which Port Elizabeth is famous. After all, after Cape Town and Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth is famous around the world for its jazz.
Amasiko sang by Nomzamo Mkhuzo at the ILAM/Red Location Museum concert in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth.
And rightly so. Nomzamo’s performance during the concert that day was a gem in the rough the way she can still sing and hit those high notes. When Brown Sugar, a young male vocalist backed by the band Take Note, sang Nomzamo’s composition, ‘Into Zangoku’, Nomzamo joined him to create a duet in which she did a impressive scat – their performance made clear that New Brighton Jazz is still alive and kickin’. Proof of a living jazz heritage. Three generations of jazz musicians and singers were on stage last sunday afternoon. I witnessed three generations of love.
parts of this content is based on Generations of Jazz exhibit catalogue (ILAM 2013)
to obtain copies of the DVD and/or the Generations of Jazz exhibit catalogue contact email@example.com or go to www.ru.ac.za/ilam