Music memoir as an evocation of cultural legacy: The Zayn Adam story
Jegels, Llewellin RG
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Musicians of colour are under-represented in the South African archive, in part due to the ravages of apartheid and the lack of resources to chronicle their trajectories outside of the production of their music alone. In this biography, I excavate the story of Zayn Adam, an iconic member of the popular 1970s Cape Flats band, Pacific Express, and construct a narrative based predominantly on a four-hour interview he had with Jonathan Stevens, a co-member of the Cape Minstrel band, the Golden Dixies, plus interviews I conducted with Paddy Lee-Thorp, Zayn’s former manager, Zayn’s son, Danyaal and Glenn Robertson who helped manage Zayn’s last show. I explore the relationships between the various bands and their creation of music fusion as a means of transcending economic realities which forced this artistic reinvention upon which they had to rely as a means of survival, particularly when performing in white clubs. I also explore the role of music as a form of cultural commentary and cultural memory against the backdrop of apartheid. Each chapter is titled after a popular song that reflects the spirit of the chapter. In the essay that follows, I reflect on the process of writing the biography, considering the challenges of historiography in general, and of biography in particular.