Graded on a Curve:
Witch,
Introduction

“We’re a Zambian Band!”

Tired of motoriking around the living room to your Krautrock records? Just plain done with dancing your legs down to your knees to your Northern Soul, Batucada, and Space Disco LPs? Sick unto death of the records in your Eastern Bloc Jazz-Fusion, Dungeon Synth, Nederpop, Nangma, Pirate Metal, Pornogrind, and Spouge collections?

Well, my depraved vinyl junkie friend, why not give Zamrock a shot?

The 1970s Zambian rock scene produced some really great Afro-psychedelic bands, the most famous of which was Witch (stands for We Intend to Cause Havoc!). Fronted by the charismatic Emanuel “Jagari” Chanda (that “Jagari is an Africanization of “Jagger”!), Witch sang in English and were famed for their frenetic live shows, which could last more than six hours and frequently included some really dope covers, including a retooled version of Grand Funk’s “We’re an American Band” the band proudly retitled “We’re a Zambian Band.”

Seriously, all you crate diggers: how fucking Sub-Saharan cool is that?

I’m not going to go into any great detail about the socio-economic conditions that made Zamrock such a potent force in the seventies; suffice it to say the movement arose and thrived in the sunny wake of Zambian national liberation and economic boom times only to slowly founder amidst a host of vexing geopolitical problems (wars on the nation’s borders, an uprising in country) and the near collapse of the country’s copper-based economy.

And what these forces couldn’t do, the devastating AIDS plague did–four of the band’s members (Chanda was the sole exception) ultimately succumbed to the disease.

“We’re coming to your town, we’ll help you Zamrock down… “

Like their Zamrock compatriots in The Peace, Musi-O-Tunya, and Amanaz, Witch played a heady stew concocted of Western-based psychedelic and straight-up rock combined with traditional African music, and while the smart money is on 1975’s Lazy Bones!! as being their best LP, I prefer 1974’s Introduction. It boasts a stripped-down psych-folk feel and features a big organ drone and lots of scuzzed-up fuzz guitar, and the results are both mesmeric and enthralling.

“We’re a Zambian band, we’re a Zambian band… “

Doesn’t happen very often, but I fell in love with Witch on first listen. Yep. From the first time I heard “You Better Know,” a deliriously simple little pop confection with great vocals by Chanda (and by all on the choruses). And if that one hadn’t gotten me “See You Mama,” a moody and organ-drenched VU drone rocker on which Chanda gets all pouty and sings “I don’t want you/I don’t need you no more” (and it’s very very Jagger like indeed), would have.

“They said come on dudes, let’s get it on… “

And so it goes. “Like a Chicken” is one of the greatest chicken rockers ever written– it’s almost as good as the Felice Brothers’ “Run Chicken Run,” holds its own against Little Feats’ “Dixie Chicken,” and stands up with the Turtles’ great “Chicken Little Was Right.” Kinda brings Van Morrison circa his Them years to mind, it does, and the guitar solo and swirling circus organ will blow your mind.

Meanwhile, the title track is all organ push and drone and a miracle of bare-bones simplicity, while “That’s What I Want” mates some great group vocals to a chug-a-lug guitar and some really snazzy drum work. Watch out for the very wooly-bully guitar solo! As for “No Time,” it boasts one very in-your-face bass and some seriously fuzzed-up ax wank and will have you doing the Jerky Turkey.

“Out on the road for forty days, last night in Lusaka put me in a haze… “

Oh, and the LP’s home to a pair of swell instrumentals. “Home Town” is so deceptively simple in its mid-tempo way I wrote it off at first as a demo quality backing track the guys never got around to putting lyrics to. But it proceeded to hypnotize this chicken so there, while the other one (“Try Me”) had me feeling all laid back and happy like I get when I’m listening to the Grateful Dead in full live jam mode.

“Feelin’ good, feelin’ right it’s Saturday night… “

Look–I can’t tell you what to do. But I intend to track down the six Witch LPs I know about, then to look high and low for every other Zamrock album in existence. And if that means having to get rid of my 4-Beat, Azonto, Banda, Chillwave, Darkstep, Hanseatic League Electro-Deathdub, and Funeral Doom collections to make space, so be it. That said, I’m holding on to my Spouge LPs. A guy’s got to draw the line somewhere.

“We’re a Zambian Band!”

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

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  • B12345

    Amanaz – the Africa LP (1975) is another jammin ZamRock LP.

    • Michael Little

      It is! I hope to write about it one of these days!

  • http://spotifythrowbacks.com SpotifyThrowbacks.com

    This was the first time listening to music like this. I found them on Spotify. I like the song “Living In The Past.” I don’t particularly like their singing, but their actual music is amazing! Thank you so much for Sharing..

    • Michael Little

      My pleasure. I was so glad to discover them too!

  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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