Stimela captures 25 years of music on epic DVD

NELSPRUIT

Legendary South African band Stimela has gone back in time to capture its 25-year history on a DVD documentary for fans.

Stimela Live in Concert showcases 25 of Stimela’s live concerts over 25 years in South Africa and puts the music in context with a commentary titled, “Search for the Elusive Missing Chord”.

“These songs are half painted pictures which articulated the emotions that we felt at the time,” explains front man Ray Phiri.

The band’s legacy project showcases 25 songs produced over 25 years that have shaped Stimela’s success. The songs are divided into five stages or epochs of Stimela’s growth, namely: the journey, the discovery, the confusion, the realisation and the celebration.

“These songs chronicle the journey of Stimela as emissaries of South African culture through five significant periods of our music,” Phiri said.

Phiri said the project will also be a means to encourage a single, shared identity for the new South Africa.

“My dream is for a South African identity that is for everyone,” he added. “And this project will hopefully encourage young people to remember (the past) so as to dream for a better future.”

Phiri said that the project was inspired by Stimela’s fans in South Africa.

“South Africans are responsible for Stimela,” he said. “Without their support we would never be here. These songs were influenced by them, their anger, happiness, confusion and frustration,” he said. Simply put, this project belongs to South Africa.”

He hopes the project will also show young artists how Stimela became a success.

“Watch for yourself what the Stimela experience is. We are not saying that we are superb, but we are saying this is how we did it, judge for yourself,” Phiri said.

He attributes the band’s success to a love for story-telling.

Even though the band members have retired, they continue to play music for the love of it.

The legacy project was developed in partnership with Durban-based music producer Sibusiso Mpisane of Inyanga Tradings 559 and is scheduled for release in March 2009.

Phiri founded Stimela in 1982 and the band produced gold and platinum albums like Fire, Passion and Ecstasy, Look, Listen and Decide and People Don’t Talk So Let’s Talk.

In 1985, Paul Simon invited Phiri to perform with him on his worldwide Graceland Tour, rocketing him to international superstardom.

The project enabled Phiri and Stimela drummer Isaac Mtshali to perform in Central Park and Madison Square Garden. They also appeared on top US television shows.

Phiri, who won a Grammy award for his contribution, remains humble, however, and lives modestly with his family in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.