Socialist Worker

Welcome back to Zamrock—how WITCH made a return

WITCH: We Intend to Cause Havoc tracks down the pioneers of a unique brand of Zambian rock. It tells their story—and the history of Zambia too, says Mataio Dean

Issue No. 2762

Witch: We Intend To Cause Havoc revives the psychadelic flamboyance of Zamrock

Witch: We Intend To Cause Havoc revives the psychadelic flamboyance of Zamrock


From writer and director Gio Arlotta comes a wild ride through the story of the pre-eminent Zamrock band WITCH and the history of Zambia.

Its use of archival footage and uncontrived camera work provides a fascinating and unique snapshot of Zambia and its most renowned rock band.

Psychedelic animations pulse and vibrate in time with the complex rhythms and textures of WITCH’s instrumental passages.

This film tells the story of Arlotta’s search for Emmanuel “Jagari” Chanda the last surviving member of the original WITCH line-up.

Jagari recorded such classic Zamrock albums as Introduction and Lazy Bones.

Now, we discover him working as a gemstone miner and occasional teacher, his glory days as a rock star a distant memory.

Jagari’s life-story echoes the story of the Zamrock genre itself. It ­flourished in the 1970s after Zambia’s independence from British colonial rule as a musical cry of anti-colonial victory and bold cultural self-assertion.

WITCH, or “We intend to cause havoc,” came to embody a kind of popular anti-establishment, anarchic, joyous independence. It fused British rock with traditional Zambian music and Jimi Hendrix-style ­psychedelic blues.

But the Zambian independence movement was not successful in dismantling the structures of imperialist exploitation. Copper prices fell, wars broke out, the government became increasingly authoritarian, the AIDS epidemic ravaged Zambia.

Zamrock musicians soon found that no one could afford to attend their gigs or even own turntables.

Refused

Jagari refused to join the army because it would mean cutting his afro.

But he was plunged into poverty after being falsely accused of drug trafficking and therefore stripped of his job and pension.

He later found Christianity and a living as a miner. WITCH continued without him as a disco outfit into the 80s.

The film sees Jagari reunited with old Zamrock friends

Jagari reforms WITCH and tours Europe. He struggles to reconcile being a rockstar with the born-again Christian within himself, but concludes, “If they want to excommunicate me for playing WITCH music, so be it! It’s part of me.”

As well as stunning wide-angle shots of the Zambian landscape, Arlotta gives us attention to detail.

We get Jagari’s flamboyant 70s wardrobe, from embroidered flared trousers and colourful shirts to his signature large flowery hat being ­re-made for the tour.

His narration is sometimes over simplistic. But this is balanced out by the first hand accounts from Jaragi and those around him—the real substance of the film.

It’s a bold and valuable rehabilitation of an African rock legend.

WITCH: We Intend to Cause Havoc is out in cinemas and On Demand platforms now

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