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Hotep Idris Galeta

Pianist-composer-educator Hotep Idris Galeta ‘Cecil Galeta’ was born on 7 June 1941 and grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. However, he was more commonly known as Cecil Barnard; Barnard was his father's first name. Galeta used the name Cecil Barnard until he left South Africa in 1961. He legally changed his name to Hotep Idris Galeta in the late 1980s when he embarked on a personal spiritual quest. He embraced and explored aspects of the Islamic mystical tradition called Sufism. For the purposes of this biography he will be referred to simply as ‘Galeta’.

During his teenage years Galeta was drawn into a very active nucleus of South African jazz musicians, among them; Dollar Brand, Chris McGregor, Dudu Pukwana, Johnny Gertze, Makaya Ntoshoko and many other notable South African musicians.

Bassist Lamie Zukufu exposed Galeta to the music of Bud Powell and Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker when he was sixteen years old. Dollar Brand (now known as Abdullah Ibrahim), played a significant role in Galeta’s early musical development, both as a friend and as a role model. Dollar Brand exposed him to the music of Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins. Geleta also spent a lot of time with the pianist Chris McGregor and the saxophonist Dudu Pukwana. These two musicians opened his ears to the music of Herbie Nichols and Ornette Coleman, which changed his musical concepts quite drastically. By the turn of the 1960s, South Africa had institutionalized apartheid and instituted martial law, driving most of these musicians abroad.

Galeta was no exception, under an assumed name (Cecil Barnard was the name he used when he left South Africa) and with the assistance of underground connections, he left by boat for Southampton (England) in 1961, shortly after the Sharpeville massacre. When he arrived in England he made his way to London, where he met some members of the cast of the South African jazz opera ‘King Kong’, which had been playing at one of the theaters in London's West End.

Galeta lived with a number of South African expatriates in London for a year. He then traveled to the United States, arriving in New York in the summer of 1962. In the USA he expanded his horizons through both formal and informal education.

In 1967- 1968 he played in Hugh Masekela's band, including a notable performance at the 1967 Monterrey International Pop Festival. Galeta first met Hugh Masekela in the late 1950s when he was a member of a group called ‘The Jazz Epistles’. This band included Abdullah Ibrahim on piano, Kippie Moketsie on alto sax, Jonas Gwangwa on trombone, Johnny Gertse on bass, and Makaya Ntshoko on drums.

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