South African Jazz maestro Ray Phiri warned the audience during the dinner and concert at Cross Roads over the weekend that he was literally dragging himself due to fatigue as he has been on the road before the show.
This was soon after he had just given the stunned audience in Sapitwa Room a sample performance of things to come and his warning did not provide enough ground where people would build their enthusiastic expectations.
It was, however, never to be the case as he later defied the fatigue that was feared to disrupt his performance and showed why he is a living legend that showed some wizardly with the guitar while maintaining his deep voice.
The next four songs that he performed before he retired gave the audience enough reason to appreciate why he has had his name as a household one since the late 1980s through to 1986 when he contributed immensely to Paul Simon’s Graceland album.
Before him came another Phiri in the name of Francis who performs as Lawi. His ten tracks showed he has not slackened a bit.
Apart from the tracks from his self-produced self-titled album he also played at least three tracks which are not part of the album, including a love track Keterina.
“This is a love song of a village setting depicting how back in the days courtship used to occur,” he told the audience.
At first the audience was absorbing the vibes while seated but when tracks that have made him a name started coming like ‘Africa, My Mother Land’ and ‘The Whistling Song’ people leapt from their chairs and took to the dance-floor.
The show was organised by Icare and Coopi, two institutions that are raising funds to improve the critical conditions in the country’s intensive care units.
“I would like to that you the people in this room,” said Icare Chairman Bright Kamanga. “Your being here tonight underscores the commitment of the various stakeholders.”
There was also a live auction where successful bidders won themselves an overnight stay for two at Kumbali Lake Retreat; two VIP tickets to the 2015 Lake of Stars festival; visit to Chelinda Lodge in Nyika National Park in Rumphi; and a cup of tea treat with former Official Hostess to late President Kamuzu Banda, Cecelia Kadzamira.
Besides organising the event for a different cause other than musical, this opened a window for the country to sample their own talent in the name of Ray as he traces his roots back to Malawi.
In fact he says he learnt the art of music from his father who hailed from Kasungu but went to South Africa to work in the mines.
Ray joined his first band Jabuva Queens in 1967 and by the following year their hit ‘Sponono’ was a public anthem.