By Freddy Macha
I met Alan Hayman, a South African community activist and musician in 1991. Back then I was living in Rio de Janeiro and had reviewed an international film festival for a London magazine. While visiting the country my agent (who was based in London) said she had got a call from this African guy.
Alan pictured here in his last years working with young people in a Brazilian community. Pic courtesy of Vera Lucia Pereira da Silva...
On the phone, Alan was polite and had a strong South African accent. I was used to South African English because many freedom fighters were exiled in Tanzania due to Apartheid.
I greeted Mr Hayman in Zulu.
This was on the phone; but when we met I was shocked. Alan Hayman was not only white, he was Jewish. Reflect on this. When I was growing up, a Tanzanian passport clearly stated that you could travel to all countries except Israel and South Africa. In my generation, white South Africans were part of racism; the enemy. So imagine my trepidation and nervousness meeting a white South African. Alan Hayman had a moustache, walked briskly and spoke softly. I had never shook hands with a white South African before.
The man was like an angel. Fact is Alan Hayman had sprinted away from apartheid back in the late 1970’s. He hated it. In his portfolio you see him working with black people and taking the side of the anti racists from when he was very young. Yes he was different. It was November, London was cold; I was shivering; I was welcomed to his pad at Finsbury Park (on the same street that the infamous mosque where terror suspects would be arrested, after September Eleven, ten years later) - and had a very loving, warm Brazilian wife called Vera.
It was Vera who sent me an email last week saying Alan Hayman had died in Rio de Janeiro. When I phoned she could not speak properly, her cousin said she had to take calming pills. A few days later Vera wrote me an email: “I never heard Alan complaining about anyone; he hated prejudice, police, dentists, politicians, aggression against animals and nature, traffic jams and bad music.”
Alan (behind third from left) on the album cover of, Sambatucada, one of the many bands he played or directed musically...
Yup. Hayman was one of chief founders of the London School of Samba in 1983 and apart from several projects promoting Brazilian culture and being connected to the London Notting Hill Carnival (which he involved me too); he teamed up with African musicians, e.g. Forming the Jazira fusion band alongside Ghanaian maestro Isaac Tagoe.
The South African was a disciplined researcher who assisted many to get connected to African, European and Latin American music and culture. One of his most memorable qualities was his genuine passion to help find knowledge. He would give detailed references, lend books, record music and in age of selfishness (and money grabbing) type and write things, making sure you got the right information. I used to tease him that he should be a professor at some college.
Having lived in London for over 12 years, Alan Hayman moved to Brasil where he helped find Pax, an organisation assisting to fight poverty, HIV, precocious pregnancy, misery of street children and preservation of the natural landscape. He also taught English.
The last time he visited London he played in my album and we did a couple of gigs. But his spirit was always in Brazil where he returned and died on 5th September and is, subsequently, buried. He is survived with a son and a grand daughter.