In case you din’t know it, Stimela means train as is steam train or high speed train or Thomas the Tank Engine train. However the Stimela that made the ‘Unfinished Story’ song were neither steam nor high-speed and none of them were called Thomas. One of them was called Ray and his surname was Phiri and he became a stalwart of the SA music scene and was one of those who was invited by Paul Simon to play on the ‘Graceland’ album.
Listening to ‘Unfinished Story’ one can’t easily make the leap to ‘Graceland’, well not from a musical sound point of view, but from a polished and accomplished musical point of view it would make sense. ‘Unfinished Story’ does not have a particularly ‘black South African’ sound to it as it could easily have rubbed shoulders with the jazzy Americans of the late 70’s early 80s such as Weather Report and Herbie Hancock and what the soulful funky chaps like Marvin Gaye and Rick James were doing around that time. The song mixes this jazzy-funk-soul into a polished six and a half minutes of laid back pleasure that would have found a good home being played in a smoke filled undergound club somewhere is the seedier areas of Joburg.
Stimela had been going since the late 70’s but this song which was the title track of their 1987 album of the same name, showed that they had become comfortable with their trade and were capable of fine nuggets like this. They continued to record and release albums up to 2011, so yes, the title of this track was true. Phiri sadly died in 2017.
Where to find it:
The Unfinished Story / Fire,Passion,Ecstasy – Stimela (1994), Gallo, CDGMP 40490 H