Caiphus Semenya celebrates 80 years through music

“When I look back I realised that Bra Dan took us away from the jaws of the apartheid regime. If it was not for Bra Dan, I would have died working on the farms. My biggest wish is to see the first child graduating and after that God you can take me.”

The soft-spoken musician, who was born in Alexandra, northern Johannesburg and also grew up in Benoni, credits his youngish look to healthy eating.

Like all musicians, Bra Katse, as he is affectionately known, lived recklessly during his youth, partying hard, smoking and living an unhealthy lifestyle. But when he turned 60 years, he adopted a strictly healthy lifestyle without compromise. He stopped smoking, stopped drinking beer and began eating lots of vegetables and fruits, drank black tea and ate fish.

“While I was in America, I was like many other musicians. But one day it had to stop when Letta complained about my lifestyle. When I turned 60 I remembered that when we were growing up we ate vegetables and fruits because my father was selling them.”

Switching back to his successful music career, Semenya started singing professionally in the 1950s. He later became a member of the King Kong musical which toured internationally from 1959 to the early 1960s. In 1964, he joined the cast of the musical drama Sponono.

When he returned from exile living in Los Angeles, he wrote and produced hits which are still making SA dance. He says there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing people singing along to his music.

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