South African music legend Ray Phiri during an interview in 2015. Picture: Matthews Baloyi/ANA Pictures

Johannesburg - The African National Congress on Tuesday said it was saddened to learn of the passing of jazz legend Ray Phiri. 

The South African music legend succumbed to lung cancer after being admitted to Nelspruit Mediclinic in Mpumalanga.

Phiri had claimed that his health situation was under control and had pleaded for privacy after a former bandmate revealed that the former Stimela frontman was struggling to pay his hospital bills. 

The ANC in a statement extended its heartfelt condolences to Phiri's family and music industry in the wake of his death. 

"Ray Phiri was a voice for the voiceless and a legend of our time. An immensely gifted composer, vocalist and guitarist, he breathed consciousness and agitated thoughts of freedom through his music," ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said. 

"Through Whispers in the Deep, amongst his many works, Phiri, his band Stimela and his friends, Nana Coyote, amongst others, taught us to forever remain inspired and never understand hate. They spoke of knowledge and pain, necessary preconditions to develop a single nation of love, formed from us - the 'tributaries to the great river of of pain'."

Kodwa also hailed Phiri as a global ambassador who played an immense role in unearthing and supporting new talent in the industry. 

"The indelible contribution Phiri has made to the tapestry that is South African arts and culture will never be forgotten. May his life’s work forever remain an inspiration to generations of artists who would emulate his example of using the arts to effect change and inspire hope amongst his people."