25 February 2015
Il mondo . . . your love is all I need in my world.
Just picture, for a moment, the person singing that memorable line from one of the classic songs of the mid-Sixties. A booming “il mondo” followed by a smooth, mellow “ your love is all I need in my world”.
No, not John Barry or Matt Munro who had big hits with it overseas. Try Zane Adams . . . or Zayn Adam . . . or Zayne Adam.
It matters not how you spell it, the picture you’ll get, if you’re of that vintage, is of a baby-faced singer who enthralled Cape Town and South Africa with his polished performances on stage and a person with a captivating, warm personality.
He died this week, aged 68, after a short illness and Cape Town, South Africa and his many fans across world mourn him.
This blog/website is dedicated to chronicling the careers (Talking to the Elders”) of people who can rightly be called “legends” or “icons” of the Cape Town music scene.
Zane (I’ll spell it that way because that is how I got to know him back in ’66 when we first met) was on the top rung with the other local legends. This blog was planning to talk to him at the Cape Town Jazz Festival at the end of March.
Sadly, it’s not to be. Life can be cruel sometimes.
I first began writing about Zane in 1967 when I started out as a journalist with the top local paper of that time, Cape Post. We hit it off immediately – he the smooth, affable young star of the local scene, me the fresh-faced, pimply journalist.
It is safe to say that I wrote more about Zane in those early years than any other artist. I was a regular at their place in Walmer Estate and I have this abiding memory of his parents, Jan and Scotty, telling me when I pitched up before midday to interview him that I was the ultimate optimist if I thought I was going to get him awake before noon.
The boy wonder
Zane started out as something of a boy wonder. He sang in his father’s Malay Choir, the Celtics Singkoor at a tender age, and then linked with a show called the Stars of Africa headed by Omar Majiet.
The show went on the road around South Africa but did not last too long. As one door closed another opened in the form of the touring variety show, Golden City Dixies that spawned some of our country’s best known entertainers – Danny Williams, Danny Butler, Dave Bestman, Vivian Kensley, Yvonne Cloete, Sophia Foster to name a few.
The show made it all the way to Malawi where Zane’s blossoming career almost came to a premature end. The tour bus crashed and there were serious injuries and one fatality. He walked away with a dislocated shoulder.
In the mid-Sixties when talent contests were all the rage in Cape Town, Zane cleaned up the big ones three years in a row from 1965-67, culminating with the Cape Post’s Mr Entertainment title.
They were memorable times with packed houses in the Woodstock Town Hall and the Luxurama. The popular ballads of the time – Born Free, Walk Away and Il Mondo – were Zane’s signature tunes. He was all class. Strong voice, smooth, elegant.
But Zane was maturing. He was looking beyond local talent shows and little variety shows where invariably he commanded top billing. In 1968, he turned down the chance to defend his Mr Entertainment title (Taliep Petersen won) and he also turned his back on variety shows.
“I wasn’t getting a square deal from promoters, they wanted me to sing until I was lame — and for what, for peanuts? What they wanted was a robot, not a singer,” he said at the time.
Zane ended up working mostly in white nightclubs in Cape Town and helped to form a band called Soul Conspiracy. They never did get to do a gig on the black circuit.
Soul Conspiracy was just an interim measure for Zane though. I’ve always felt that Zane was never cut out to be a frontman for a band that requires a raunchy singer. He was always going to be the quintessential crooner and balladeer.
His next big move was to test the waters overseas. He left for London in January 1969 to crack it on the bigger stage. He made some good contacts, signed a record deal and cut a single called Today with If you Were My Woman on the flipside.
The London market was a tough market to break into. Apart from the record deal (which fizzled because of contract issues and was never released in South Africa) Zane’s highlights were guest spots with The Flames who were doing gigs there.
Zane had a close affinity with the Fataar brothers. He often featured on their shows in South Africa.
A year later when he came back to Cape Town, he settled into his old routine – a Dixies tour and a cabaret stint that took him to all the neighbouring states. He also started, briefly, an acoustic band called Sons of Adam with his brother and cousin.
In March 1975, he joined jazz-funk-fusion band Pacific Express that was more a marriage of convenience than anything else. They focused on jazz-funk, he favoured ballads.
Pacific Express didn’t last all that long but they stayed together long enough to record an album which featured the hit song Give A Little Love – an out-an-out ballad that has endured for more than 30 years.
Zane’s career marked time for years from the late Seventies with the occasional record being issued on the Mountain Records label. But always there was Give a Little Love plugging away regularly in the background on the Cape Town radio stations.
It kept him in peoples’ minds and ultimately was the focal point when his career took an upturn two years ago with the Zane Adams Tribute show to mark his 50 years in entertainment.
It was a flash affair with his contemporaries – Leslie Kleinsmith, Sophia Foster, Richard Jon Smith etc – paying tribute on stage at the Grand West Arena that night. They gave a lotta love that time!!
It sparked an upturn in his fortunes and eventually came a reunion late last year with his Pacific Express mates, Jack Momple, Issy Ariefdien and his brother-in-law Ebrahim Khalil Shihab (Chris Schilder).
The gigs started rolling in again. It is a strange irony that had Zane not been hospitalised early last week, he would have been singing at the Castle at the weekend, at Jazz on the Rocks, at Kaleidoscope and at the Cape Town Jazz Festival. Four weekend gigs in a row. It hadn’t been that good for years.
His death sparked a veritable avalanche of tributes on social media. It is testimony to the high regard in which he was held.
Zane? Zayne? Zayn? It matters none. He was a friend of mine.
Zane… Friendly, humble, funny, kind and entertaining. And always thankful for everything that comes his way. Never to busy to chat to a fan or take a picture. Never to busy to tell his cape town Gamat and Abdol jokes.
Had it not been for Warren’s blog, I wouldn’t have been aware of neither Zayne nor Walter’s passing.
I knew these two gentlemen very well indeed!
I had the enormously fulfilling experience of sharing the same stage with them at certain venues on the Cape Town gig circuit in the 60s/early 70s.
Vale to both of them!
I corresponded with Zayne extensively throughout my global travels after my departure from South Africa in 1972.
In my humble opinion, he definitely had one of the finest voices the country has ever known!
I cannot express my intense disappointment when I missed his performance when he appeared at the German Club in my current home town The Gold Coast! Unfortunately/fortunately, I was working somewhere else on that night. Nobody knew where he and the band were staying!
I shall miss these great talents tremendously!
May I also take this opportunity to express my sincere and profound condolences to their friends and families!
Peace & love! Bernie ‘Baroco’ Brown
Thank you Warren for this brief yet deep insight into this Cape Town legend, he might never walk amongst us again, but his voice will never fall silent.
Thanks for throwing some more light into this wonderful human being, Zayn Adam.