It would not be far-fetched to call Caiphus Semenya South African music royalty. A career spanning almost five decades as a composer, music director and artist for both local and international acts is no small accomplishment.
No one could have predicted that being uprooted to live in Benoni as a teenager would set the tone for the next chapter of his life. The jazz infused and rich dynamic sounds that set the town apart from the rest became the backdrop for Caiphus Semenya’s love affair with music. He was a part of the then teen group ‘Katzenjammer Kids’ that performed around the country. And from there his name was written in lights as he travelled to London and New York with various theatrical productions.
The United States became home to him and his wife Letta Mbuli for 27 years. The rejection by the Manhattan School of Music did not deter him from his calling. He worked with the late Miriam Makeba arranging her music and training as a composer. His talent caught the ear of music legend Quincy Jones. Between him, composing for greats like Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa and Nina Simone, Semenya cemented his name as a musical genius.
What Caiphus knows for sure is this: he is not here doing what he is by chance. In his words “I was determined that I was not going to live a life that was determined by others.” When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone hold the pen!