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.