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Ex- Kalimba, Makasu star returns home after illness

IN NEED OF HELP—Phiri on wheelchair with family members and Chirwa (left)

The name Stain Phiri is not new to those who have followed Kalimba and Makasu bands in the country.

Phiri is among the original members of Kalimba Band, which made a name for Malawi, having conquered the world with their album Make Friends with the World which has hits such as ‘Sometimes I Wonder’.

Phiri, producer and keyboardist, returned home from South Africa last week due to illness, having suffered, stroke which has paralysed his left hand and leg.

Now using a wheelchair, Phiri, who is now based in Chirimba, Blantyre, said on Sunday he suffered from stroke in August last year.

“I have not been working since last year and, with the help of Born Afrikan and the Music Malawi Legacy and Frank Mlothwa, I was able to fly back home,” Phiri said.

He said he urgently needs to start physiotherapy and that, having stopped working last year and drained resources due to illness, he needs support.

Vita Chirwa, who is now leading Kalimba and visited Phiri on Sunday, said they would wait for the family to provide more details on further treatment.

“Stain Phiri is a legend; he was part of the team that put Malawi on the map through the album Make Friends with the World. He played keyboards in the album. For now, the family is yet to get more details on physiotherapy services and once we have everything, we would then look for help,” Chirwa said.

He said, having heard about Phiri’s illness and his coming back, he sat down with colleague Chiku Kalilombe and decided to cheer him up.

Apart from Phiri, some of the original members of Kalimba that are still alive include Kidd Mkandawire, now based in Denmark, and bassist Francis Chintembo.

Phiri, who is in his 60s, started music at the age of four and fell in love with the keyboard when he was at St Pius XII Seminary at Nguludi in Chiradzulu in 1974.

Later, Malawi Hotels recruited him to practise playing keyboards at Chisakalime Hotel, Limbe, in 1979 with the resident band then, The New Scene Band.

Phiri later met the late Bright Livewire Nkhata when he was starring with MBC Band and he encouraged him to join the musical group. So, in January 1981, Phiri joined MBC Band in Blantyre.

But there was a crisis at Capital Hotel in Lilongwe, where the resident band, Kalimba, needed a singer and keyboard player in the band.

Phiri said Kalimba was a band formed by Capital Hotel in 1976 and that it was led by Nassau Nkukupa, and changed faces as years went by.

Signed by Dephone Promotions, managed by Phill Horis and producer Attie Van-Wyk, they recorded Make Friends with the World in 1983 in Johannesburg for three weeks. The album was released in April 1983.

After his stint with Kalimba, Phiri went on to work in Botswana, where he was asked to help Botswana Police Band for two years but ended up staying for nine years.

The former Kalimba band member left for South Africa in 2008.

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