One of the last remaining Zambian rock bands, We Intend To Cause Havoc (W.I.T.C.H), will be performing at the New World Brewery in Tampa on Sunday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m.
W.I.T.C.H is one of the bands that were part of the psych-rock scene that gripped Zambia in the late 1960s to 1970s. This genre was better known as Zamrock. The genre fused influences from popular British and American bands such as Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and James Brown, whilst also mixing that style with traditional African rhythms.
They, along with other Zamrock bands, rose to popularity after the independence of Zambia from the United Kingdom in 1964. Zambia managed to hang on to their copper mining industry, which led to a big economic boom where many Zambians could now afford to spend money on entertainment.
The importation of popular music records from the time led to many young Zambians picking up guitars and forming cover bands. These cover bands became extremely popular and as they began to make a profit from performing in taverns and bars, many young Zambians realized that they could make a living by playing music.
Then, the President of Zambia at the time, Kenneth Kaunda, ordered that Zambian radio must play mostly Zambian Music. Many young Zambians saw this as an opportunity to play their own music and eventually, the first Zamrock album, “Introduction” by the W.I.T.C.H, was recorded in Nairobi, Kenya in 1973.
Bands such as Salty Dog, Ngozi Family, Amanaz, Musi O Tunya, and The Peace followed in the steps of W.I.T.C.H.
W.I.T.C.H, led by lead vocalist Emmanuel “Jagari” Chanda, was amongst the most successful bands at the time, performing seven-hour long shows, selling out stadiums, and even performing in neighboring countries.
Unfortunately, the Zamrock era ended quite quickly as a collapse in copper prices, instability in its neighboring countries, and frequent curfews meant that gigs became harder to organize and to make money from. Many Zambian musicians, including Chanda, had moved on to other jobs by this time. The final nail in the coffin was the emergence of the AIDS pandemic in 1984, which killed 13% of the adult male Zambian population and wiped out most of the remaining Zamrock band members. For a while, Zamrock was forgotten.
In the 2010s, Zamrock experienced a resurgence in Europe and North America after some songs made their way to YouTube. Because of this renewed interest, some record companies like Now-Again Records reissued several Zamrock albums.
“Broadly speaking, my guess is that folks who grew up with the forgotten material now have the market power to resurrect,” said Daniel Dooghan, an associate professor of world literature. “Weird stuff happens: Dracula was published decades after the heyday of the vampire novel, but ended up the most popular of them all. Westerns have been dead as a genre for decades, but every now and then one comes out and blows everyone away. Whether this is tied to the generational cycle of nostalgia… I can’t say for sure, but it seems plausible.”
The heavy psychedelic rock influence mixed with the African rhythm as well as the lyrics seem to have played a huge role in its resurgence. They touch on everything from love and relationships to the country’s dark colonial past and the effects it had on their society.
“I grew up with some pretty heavy rock influence from my dad so W.I.T.C.H is definitely a group I can get behind,” said Jessie Wahlers, marine science-biology major. “Rock and traditional African music sound like two genres that wouldn’t be able to fuse at all but it just works so well. I’m honestly really impressed by it and I wish Spotify had a larger W.I.T.C.H discography to listen to though,”
In 2014, director Gio Artolla, captivated by W.I.T.C.H, managed to track down Chanda, who had previously been working as a professor and was then working in a mine. He filmed a documentary called We Intend to Cause Havoc which documented the history of Zamrock and W.I.T.C.H. As part of the documentary and also thanks to the success of Zamrock’s resurgence in Europe and the United States, Chanda decided to play in Europe. He finally returned to the stage in 2017 with new band members, still under the W.I.T.C.H name.
His recent tour through the United States may be the last tour that he does before he retires. His show in Tampa may be the last time that people will be able to see one of the last remaining bands that formed part of the Zamrock genre.