How Can We Ever Pay Enough Tribute to S.A. Black Music Legends? The passing of Mr. Ray Chikapa Phiri on the 12th July 2017 touched me so deep that; I had to find an excuse to write about our local music talent and the untapped treasure of our unsung heroes; let alone the musical geniuses this country has ever produced.
Music all over the world is known to be a force that unifies and brings people together. As if to keep hope alive and shower our aspirations and dreams with a renewed meaning to want to push for survival and move on. We are all touched and affected by music in reference to our favourite icons – the world over.
But, when you lose a musical genius and a leader like Ray Phiri, it’s like losing one of your close family relative. We are bound spiritually by music and the bonds we form with musicians. As fans we unravel our humanity when one of us is unsettled or is separated from us physically the pain is unbearable.
This tribute cannot do justice to all of our deserving local South African musicians who have passed on and those still alive today. However, my heart goes deep, and back to the early days of our political struggles as a nation. Music became our source of comfort and therapy against aggravation.
“As Blacks” our lives were intertwined but, tainted with despair, turmoil and uneasiness that were destined by Apartheid Masters to decide the fate of our daily bread. Yet, our inner peace was wanting the least trustingly tampered with by the powers that be.
Down memory lane
My trip down memory-lane was reminiscing of the good old days and how history can turn around to play our feelings against our intellect. It’s unimaginably difficult to know whether our lives are just another episode of time attempting to redefine our unity of purpose and self indulgence with individual musical tastes and obsessions. Or we simply survive and face adversity because someone has their music turned on?
Only God knows why we are blessed with such beautiful confusion to justify our ignorance, pleasure and pain to continue living with spiritual abundance as to entertain our unique and profound experiences, which I prefer to call “Life’s Untitled Mysterious Movies”.
Being Black is a unique and pleasant privilege a blessing ordained by God yet; living in the township is priceless. You need to be a tourist to have glimpses of what it “feels” like to be in an “African-skin”. Being a resident South African Black living in Townships in the early 60’s to 80’s was a blast to which our divine aura was encapsulated to belong to so as to survive and explore possibilities of life beyond the struggle.
Only now, my deeper spiritual comprehension appreciates the profoundest knowledge of this revelation. Reaching my matured age and learning to respect the air we breathe or where and why we traveled this path with difficulties and challenges, aside from calling it a curse, is a rare experience.
What emerged to my mind when Mr. Ray Phiri was laid to rest were flash backs of the 70’s era. It reminded me of the passing of a “special unsung” great genius and musical hero Selby Ntuli founder and leader of the “Beaters” music group.
This group shares the same timeline with The “Movers” and The “Flaming Souls”. The “Cannibals” was where Ray Phiri’s and Paul Ndlovu were baptised and his journey into the music mural was launched. Like an ocean of waves rushing through my thoughts, I landed back in the period of the late 1980’s hearing the sound track by “Harari-Beaters” viz “Harari” which I would like you to listen to:
This band in my book of South African Black music history stands out as the epitome of greatness, creativity and absolute marvel any musicians or band can exhibit. They’ve showcased a musical masterpiece of performance with exceptional production and creative self expression unmatched in personal talent articulation.
Soweto Afro music rock band
One can never begin to compare the current talent that exist now in the 2017 to what this band stood for in the 1970’s. Considering the type of musical arragements of their melodies, originality and the confluence in the lyrics; it’s something our current young generation needs to be taught and are lacking to say the least.
From when the track “Harari” starts playing, birds chip and the wind blows softly in the background before the haunting organ intro of Selby’s begins to taunt the tranquillity in your soul with compliments of a Rhodes organ. You realize the music is going to steal your emotions. You become part of the rhythmic beautiful chaos waiting to happen. This track is criminal and was justly arrested by the group’s nonchalant attack of the score, I rest my case.
It’s magical; it’s intoxicating but a scintillating experience to embrace this piece of art. It takes you back to the time when our innocence as humanity was grounded and our divinity unadulterated and uncontaminated by fear, lust, anxiety, anger or deliberation to care.
You are immediately engulfed by the vocal reverberation echoes of Alec Khaoli’s raw voice; when his rhythmic bass roars to warm your expectation with an unexpected pleasures of his bass line anchoring tones. Before you know it, you are one with the music and turned on, without wanting to resist the capture.
Nothing speaks more sense to you then when Sipho Mabuse’s enchanting flute fills the empty spaces of the air with infectious backing that leaves you diluted with unexplained emotional wonder. I was simply immersed by the melody and happy to go to jail and be sentenced to life of jubilation in my hour of satisfaction.
The lesson I have learnt from this experience was that we have forgotten how to honour and celebrate the passing and appreciation of our artists and music icons. Their contribution to society and the positive power they play during our lifetime is undoubtedly unsurpassed. Yet they’re never cherished and immortalized to levels any museum of arts and culture can bestow upon a status of an honourable ambassador who serves us untold happiness to restore our dignity as a people.
The music legend is born
It is these great musicians, composers, bands and artists of our times who help us identify the reason to exist and to find ourselves when we are lost in the mist of political turmoil and distress. It was in 1970’s to 80’s when the beaters a Soweto Afro-rock music band took the country and the African continent by storm. To Selby Ntuli may I salute his soul to rest in peace his leadership, vision and influence will forever remain awesome in my memory of his greatness.
The beaters as they were known before they became “HARARI” were led by him and comprised of Sipho “hot-stix” Mabuse and Alec Khaoli as co-founders they carved a new path of music in South Africa. Their music was ahead of its time, especially the track “harari”.
The song paved a way to influence our sociopolitical behaviour only to illuminate our blind spots with a sense of belonging to appreciate our Blackness. I am black and I am proud of being who I am in my skin and because of that I sing hallelujah to celebrate life without any regret of my skin colour, shape or form.
The fever to find justice for our political liberation of institutional Apartheid can never be over emphasized. Black folks were able to indulge in music as a medicinal pill to ease our aches and relief us from racial poisoning and self-hate. The “Beaters” were able to dispel that myth and delivered their message of hope loud and clear.
The promise was to keep the fire of hope ignited against ignorance to elevate our spirit, so that we can rise to the occasion when times were tough. It is through song and dance that people and countries can liberate the soul of a nation from limitation and despair done to them by others. Hope is our key to share and explore life’s unlimited possibilities.