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R.I.P., Ray Phiri! (My ‚Graceland‘ memories)

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Last Friday (July 14, 2017), Jon Pareles posted this obituary in the New York Times: Ray Phiri, ‘Graceland’ Guitarist and Anti-Apartheid Bandleader, Dies at 70

Ray Phiri, the South African guitarist who reached an international audience backing Paul Simon on the albums “Graceland” and “The Rhythm of the Saints” and who founded Stimela, a widely acclaimed, long-running band that confronted apartheid, died on Wednesday at a clinic in Nelspruit, South Africa. He was 70.


I never talked to Ray Phiri in person. But I must have seen him when visiting a rehearsal of the „Graceland“ tour in London for an interview with Paul Simon. He and his collaborators caught a lot of flak back then because they were accused of violating the cultural boycott against South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Before the interview, I was instructed not to bring up the boycott – if I did, they told me he’d break off the interview and leave the room immediately. I talked around the issue by asking Paul whether it bothered him that the issues surrounding „Graceland“ caught more attention than the music itself.

Apparently, this hit a nerve. Not only did he provide an extensive answer, he also took me backstage because he wanted me to get Miriam Makeba’s and Hugh Masekela’s perspective as well. So I ended up getting three interviews for the price of one, and I was very glad to provide some first-hand commentaries to the on-going debate.

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Written by Peter Jebsen

18. Juli 2017 um 0:59

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