Telling the untold story of jazz singer Zayn Adam

The life of Zayn Adam is the subject of a new book that was launched in Salt River on Saturday.

A new book explores the life of legendary Salt River jazz singer Zayn Adam.

Give a Little Love: The Zayn Adam story, by Rondebosch author and academic Llewellin Jegels, was introduced to the public at a book launch, attended by about 100 people, at Salt River Hall, on Saturday.

The Salt River Heritage Society hosted the event.

Adam rose to fame in the 1970s as a vocalist for The Pacific Express, singing Give a Little Love, a song written by Chris Schilder.

Jegels said his book – which was five years in the making and part of his Master’s thesis at UWC – told of Adam’s upbringing in Salt River and his collaboration with various artists.

“I was driven to tell the stories of our people and memorialise our people,” he said. “This biography represents a resharing of voices that may be lost. The music isn’t lost, but where are the biographies that tell the stories of our artists?”

Having the launch at Salt River Hall meant a lot, he said, because Adam had previously performed there.

Jegels worked closely with Adam’s family on the book, and they shared old photographs with him that appear in the book.

Adam’s son, Danyaal Adam, was one of those Jegels consulted. “My dad kept many old newspaper articles, old pictures and had a scrapbook from his time with Pacific Express.”

Mr Adam said his father would tell him stories about performing in the 1970s and how he could not share a stage with white performers because of apartheid.

He said his father had had a chance to land a lucrative record deal in the UK before he had been born, but when he had returned to Cape Town to renew his passport, the police had been waiting for him at DF Malan Airport and had taken away his passport, resulting in him missing out on a big opportunity.

“He had a dream to be known,” Mr Adam said. “He wanted the music to be his livelihood; every performance he gave till the end. He got stronger and more comfortable and took on many hard songs.”

Zayn Adam died in 2015 at the age of 67.

Mr Adam said his father had died from complications caused by a stomach aneurysm and not from a heart attack as some reports had said at the time.

“My father was never a pretender, and he was always about uplifting the youth,” Mr Adam said.

SRHS vice-chairman Anwar Omar said Jegels’s book was the untold story of Zayn Adam.

“Zayn is an iconic figure in Salt River. His music is well known, but the story behind the man is not known.”

Mr Omar said the society would continue to archive information about well-known members of the community so they could be memorialised in future.

Jegels’s book will be on sale at Clarke’s Bookshop, in Long Street, from the end of March, but you can also email him at to buy a copy.

Author Llewellin Jegels, middle, with, from left, Salt River Heritage Society members, Anwar Omar, Najma Mohamed, Kulsum Viljoen, Waseela Laattoe Everson, Nadia Agherdine and Lutfi Omar at the Give a Little Love: The Zayn Adam story book launch at Salt River Hall.
Zayn Adam’s brother, Omar Adam, singing. Next to him is Danyaal Adam, the son of Zayn Adam.