‘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. Gelata 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 ‘Geleta’.
During his teenage years Geleta 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 institutionalised 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 theatres in London's West End.
Galeta lived with a number of South African expatriates in London for a year. He then travelled 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 Monterey 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.
His musical journey took him too many places, including a second stint with Masekela’s band between 1981 and 1982. Rene McLean was also in Masekela’s band at the time and he introduced Galeta to his father, Jackie. Jackie McLean invited Galeta to become part of the jazz instruction faculty at the University of Hartford Hartt; Galeta began teaching in African American Music Department in 1985. Galeta also joined McClean’s band during that period. He stayed with the band and at Hartt for eight years. He even played some rock music with David Cosby and the Birds.
Among notable recordings from the 1990s, Mario Pavone's Toulon Days was a high point in his musical career. It features the inspired composition ‘Monk in Soweto’ (to resurface later) and brought a young and unsigned Joshua Redman to the public eye.
In 1991, Galeta finally returned to South Africa optimistic about country's future after 30 years of apartheid where he served as a mentor to many young, unknown musicians, including the now famous Jimmy Dludlu, Allou April and Julius May.
In 2000 he obtained his Master of Music in Jazz Studies, degree, from Rhodes University.
His third record as an established band leader, ‘Malay Tone Poem’, came out in 2002, on South Africa's Sheer Sound label. Produced by Zim Ngqawana and featuring the Safro Jazz Quintet, it includes ten original compositions. A tour de force of creative post bop, ‘Malay Tone Poem’ was recognized as a three-time nominee at the South African Music Awards. It signalled the vision and potential of both Hotep Idris Galeta and contemporary South African jazz.
In 2004 he was appointed the Managing Director of Fort Hare Multi Media (PTY) Ltd a multimedia production company based in the city of East London in the Eastern Cape.
Galeta passed away on 3 November 2010 in Cape Town.
Complete Discography (in chronological order):
Recordings as a leader or co-leader:
- 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)
Recordings as a sideman:
- 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)
Dyk, G. v. (2010, November 9). ‘Legend's light shines on’. Peoples Post , p4. | Jacobson, N. (2003, November 15). ‘Hotep Idris Galeta Takes It Home’. Retrieved November 2, 2010, from All About Jazz: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/ | Unknown (Date Unknown). ‘Hotep Galeta’. Retrieved November 03, 2010, from Plaxo: http://www.plaxo.com/