Nov 8, 2011

Zambian fuzz rock: The Witch (Pt. II)

African rock band The Witch was born out of the small-but-scrappy Zambian music scene of the early 1970s. Led by singer Emanyeo "Jagari" Chanda, Witch (whose name was actually an acronym for "We Intend to Cause Havoc") was formed by former members of more pop-oriented Zambian bands, like the Boyfriends and Kingston Market, but by the time of their 1973 debut album, Introduction, they had worked up a fierce and forceful sound. There's really nothing overtly African-sounding at all about Introduction; other than Chanda's accent on the English-language vocals, there's nothing that even hints at the fact that Witch is from Africa at all, let alone Zambia. The influence of the garage rock and psychedelia coming out of the U.S. in the ‘60s seems to have played a major part in the Witch sound. While contemporaries like Nigeria's Tirogo incorporated Afro-beat grooves into their psych-inspired sounds, the songs on Introduction mostly sound like they could have come off of some Nuggets-esque compilation of rare ‘60s garage rock singles from the American Midwest. Chanda's raw, bluesy vocals have a kind of Stonesy swagger, as filtered through the more low-rent likes of, say, the Shadows of Knight or the Chocolate Watchband. Chris Mbewe's fiery guitar work follows suit, alternating between basic, visceral, blues-based riffs and fuzzed-out, unabashedly psychedelic-sounding licks that make you think you're hearing a product of the late ‘60s rather than the mid-‘70s. With the Zambian scene being much smaller than that of Nigeria, Witch didn't have access to particularly top-shelf studios, so there's a rough-edged, D.I.Y. sound to Introduction that suits the band's approach here perfectly, though their later, more musically sophisticated outings would noticeably suffer from their lack of sonic clarity.

James Allen


Witch was a psych-rock music group from Zambia. Their songs from the first record in 1973 are released here. The psychedelic-driven songs contain equal parts of funk, blues, and folk. However, Introduction is a window into the Zambian rock music movement of the 1970's. The classic tunes are sung in English, but the underground tone is purely African. The tongue-and-cheek title track that introduces the band members and instruments with a guitar-fuzz rhythm and English vocals. "Feeling High" is a languid tune with a familiar blues rhythm. The bass-heavy "No Time" is a funky, guitar-driven song with an upbeat tempo and classic vocals. Nine tracks in all 'introduce' listeners to rare gems of Zambian rock music. Fans of funkadelic, Afro-rock music on dusty LP's from the 1970's will find Witch to be a perfect accompaniment in a fine music collection. Don't let the name scare you from enjoying the best re-issued Afro-psych-funk to come out of Zambia. ~

Matthew Forss

01. Introduction
02. Home Town
03. You Better Know
04. Feeling High
05. Like A Chicken
06. See Your Mama
07. That's What I Want
08. Try Me
09. No Time

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