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Semenya, Caiphus (South Africa)  
Caiphus Semenya © S.Gordon 2004

CAIPHUS Semenya is one of South Africa’s foremost musical directors and composers, with recent credits including the music scores for the SABC series Molo Fish, Vicious Circle, and Gaba Mootho, as well as a lifetime of work as a performer and arranger of African music.

Semenya left South Africa in the 1960's, together with his wife, singer Letta Mbulu. Whilst in exile, he worked with compatriots Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Hotep Galeta, and Miriam Makeba amongst many others.

He subsequently took up residence in Los Angeles, where his talent resulted in work with the top range of American artists and producers, and saw his compositions being performed by Cannonball Adderley, Harry Belafonte, The Crusaders, Lou Rawls, and Nina Simone, amongst others.

arranger, bandleader, vocals
Genre: African Jazz, jazz, mbaqanga

Most notable have been Semenya’s regular collaborations with Quincy Jones. The association has seen Semenya composing all the African music for Alex Hayley’s Roots Pt 1 and Pt 2, and also the African music for the Steven Spielberg-directed Colour Purple. Semenya’s work for Colour Purple earned him an Oscar Nomination.

Semenya has composition credits for several tracks on Quincy Jones?album "Back on the Block", including the melody for the title track, which received a Grammy Award as album of the year in 1995.

Caiphus (centre) with Quincy Jones and Letta Mbulu © S.Gordon

As a performing artist and big band arranger, Semenya toured Africa with the production BUWA during the 1980's. He is probably best known to the home audience through the performances of "Caiphus & Letta", and hit songs such as "Angelina" and "Matswale".

In 1989, he was the musical director for the South African component of the Wembley Stadium "Nelson Mandela Tribute" concert. He returned from exile in 1990, and in 1991 headlined the Unity concert at FNB Stadium.

The 1990's saw Semenya working both sides of the Atlantic, whilst he and his family relocated to Johannesburg. Celebrated performances included the Africa Night at Montreux Jazz Festival, a sold out series at Sun City, and numerous open air concerts - often together with his wife Letta Mbulu.

Semenya released "Woman’s got a right to be" in 1995, and collaborated with Jonas Gwangwa to script the music for the launch of the African Union.

Caiphus and Letta Mbulu
© Eugene Arries
In April 2004, together with Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Letta Mbulu and Sibongile Khumalo, he formed the Creative Collective, which co-ordinated the musical and artistic programme for South Africa's "Ten Years of Freedom" celebrations.

Contact Details:

Chaks Entertainment & Promotions
tel +27 - 11 - 331 3077
  Recordings : Semenya, Caiphus
The Best Of Letta & Caiphus

The Best Of Letta & Caiphus
Listen To The Wind

Listen To The Wind
Streams Today,Rivers Tomorrow

Streams Today,Rivers Tomorrow

click here for more about these and other recordings by : Semenya, Caiphus

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