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Hotep Idris Galeta Takes It Home

By Published: November 15, 2003

AAJ: How do you think your family adjusted to the move? What do you miss most from abroad?

HG: My two eldest children stayed behind in the U.S. My eldest son lives in L.A. he is 35 and my daughter just graduated from College in Atlanta she is 21. I miss them, hence I try to make that 17-hour plane trip about once a year to visit them.

AAJ: Your new record with the Safro Jazz Quintet, Malay Tone Poem , represents the state of the art, so to speak. You recruited a tremendous group of musicians for the record. Zim Ngqawana in particular played a major role, both as producer and as performer. He seems to be more and more active in South African jazz.

Can you explain how your relationship with Zim developed? And what do you think he brought to the music?

HG: I first met Zim in Atlanta at the Jazz Festival when I was playing with Dewey Redman, just before my return to South Africa in 1991. He was over he doing an internship with Yusef Lateef at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. When I was in Cape Town, we hooked up and he played in my band for a while. He was the one who introduced me to the executives at Sheer Sound.

I like his playing, and since he also produced a couple of albums in the past, I asked him to play on and produce mine. Zim, who is from the ethnic group the Xhosa, brought that element of traditional sound that I wanted to hear on the album. He's a beautiful musician and also very humble.

AAJ: How do you think this particular collection of pieces reveals the relationship between the past and the present?

HG: I think the music on the album reflects the experiences that I've gone through and the journeys that I've taken over the last 62 years of my life on this planet.

AAJ: I have to comment on my favorite tune. "Monk In Soweto" does a wonderful job of bringing traditions together, with plenty of unexpected twists. I first heard it on Toulon Days. How was it to work with Mario Pavone, a master of the unexpected?

HG: Mario Pavone and I go back to my days in Hartford, Connecticut. We used to play together at a club called The 880. I always liked his musical approach and we developed a great relationship. He asked me do an album with him, and I introduced him to Joshua Redman... and of course the rest is history.

AAJ: You've also been reaching out toward new technology. When did you decide to get involved with electronic music and production?

HG: My interest in music technology started in the '70s when I was living in San Francisco. I played for a minute in the Eddie Henderson Band, where I had to play Fender Rhodes Electric piano and synthesizers. Mike Nock, who had a band called the Fourth Way, was one of the piano players who hipped me to electronic keyboards. Remember, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea were also into it.

I now have a Apple Power Mac G4, hooked up to a Roland A-37 Midi Keyboard controller, a Roland XV-5050 Sound module plus Cubase/Reason music production software. Recently I've become involved in a business venture that writes television jingles for the South Africa Broadcasting Corp., hence the technical setup.

AAJ: To what extent is electronic music compatible with acoustic jazz?

HG: There is no connection or synergy between this and acoustic music. Totally different and separate, like oil and water. They do not mix.

AAJ: On a different note, you've spent a lot of time doing music education. What approach do you think works best for introducing young people to music and performance?

HG: Since my music educational involvement with the youth here in Cape Town, I've become interested in hip-hop music, as you can hear from one of the tracks on my CD. This is one of the tools I use to expose them to various other musical genres. It works quite well, as it is something that they can relate to quite well. With the youth I stress discipline and commitment. Our motto is "No pain no gain."

AAJ: And now, the predictable finale. How do you feel about the state of jazz today, and where does South Africa fit into the big picture?

HG: Your last question is a tough one. Jazz over the last couple of decades has become a world music with many role players. It's an American art form. However, times have changed, and there are many other influences affecting the music.

Today in a democratic South Africa, jazz is thriving in an environment of freedom and racial reconciliation. At present there exists an up and coming core of extremely masterful young musicians, both black and white. Some of them are graduates from tertiary institutions here in South Africa with vibrant jazz education programs and some come from community jazz education programs.

Gloria Bosman, Judith Sephuma, Melanie Scholtz, Zim Ngqawana, Kevin Gibson, Andile Yenana, Lulu Gontsana, Mark Fransman, Eddie Jooster, Buddy Wells, Paul Hamner, Keshivan Naidoo, Dominic Peters, Andre Petersen, Victor Masondo, Marcus Wyatt, Herbie Tshoali, Themba Mkize and the late Moses Taiwa Molelekwa. These are just a few of the new innovative core of younger South African musicians who are responsible for taking the music in a new creative direction. Their vision and innovative approaches are creating a significant impact upon the South African jazz scene by the development of new concepts and ideas within the South African jazz genre.

I strongly believe that some serious musicians from South Africa will be affecting the course of jazz within this new millennium.

Visit Sheer Sound on the web.
See also the AAJ site devoted to South African jazz .

Hotep Idris Galeta: Complete Discography
(in chronological order)


Saxophone Summit (Kaz, 1992)
Heading Home (African Echoes, 1998)
Solo Jazz Piano, Live at The Tempest (October Records, 1999)
Malay Tone Poem (Sheer Sound, 2002)


Hugh Masekela: Alive and Well at the Whisky (Uni, 1967)
Hugh Masekela: The Monterey International Pop Festival (Rhino, 1967)
David Crosby & The Byrds: Younger Than Yesterday (Columbia, 1967)
Bobby Hutcherson: Live at Montreaux (Blue Note, 1973)
Hadley Caliman: Projecting (Catalyst, 1975)
John Handy: Hard Work (Impulse!, 1976)
Hadley Caliman: Celebration (Catalyst, 1977)
Letta Mbulu: Letta (A&M, 1978)
Herb Alpert & Hugh Masekela: Herb Alpert/Hugh Masekela (A&M, 1978)
Hugh Masekela: District Six (Umlilo, 1979)
High Masekela: Home (Moonshine, 1982)
Jackie McLean: Dynasty (Triloka, 1988)
Jackie McLean: Rites of Passage (Triloka, 1991)
Jackie McLean: Jackie Mac Attack Live (Verve, 1991)
Felicia Marion & Mtunzi Namba: Sweet Water-Amanzimtoti (?NYC label, 1991)
Mario Pavone: Toulon Days (New World, 1992)
Hugh Masekela: Home (Columbia, 1998)
Hugh Masekela: The Best Of Hugh Masekela (RCA Victor, 1999)
René McLean: Generations to Come (I' Jazza, 2002)

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