24 February 2015
"Emanyeo Chanda" (vocals, cow bells, maracas, popularly known as 'Jagari'- a corruption of his hero's name - "Mick Jagger" of "The Rolling Stones"), "Chris 'Kims' Mbewe" (lead guitar vocals and acoustic guitar), "John 'Music' Muma" (rhythm guitar with wah wah, vocals, ex-"The Boy Friends"), "Gedeon 'Giddy King' Mulenga" (bass guitar, ex-"The Boy Friends"), and "Boidi 'Star MacBoyd' Sinkala" (drums, ex-"Black Souls") came together out of a series of local bands by the early 1970s they'd morphed into "The Great Witch Band", which became "W.I.T.C.H" (the name was an acronym standing for We Intend To Cause Havoc).
WITCH was coined by the late Wingo (pre-WITCH "The Kingston Market") from a sound effect (Wah Wah) "footswitch". He removed "foot" and suggested "Switch". Then they removed the "S" leaving 'WITCH', like a witch on a broom stick, but later a graphic artist coined the acronym "We Intend To Cause Havoc".
Back in 1973, the landlocked southern African nation of Zambia was on the verge of a meltdown. During an uneasy decade of independence from British colonial rule, president Kenneth Kaunda had enforced a one-party political system and begun nationalizing the country's copper mining industry. When the price of oil skyrocketed and copper plummeted in the aftermath of a worldwide energy crisis, the Zambian economy was brought to its knees, while the country's neighbors – Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) – boiled over with their own bloody struggles for self-rule.
For Jagari and his friends, the solution to their woes was easy: rock and roll. "You see, we were already hearing imported culture from Europe, England and America", Chanda says today, speaking from his home in the Zambian capital of Lusaka. "We were somewhat limited as to where we sourced our music – it was either stations like Radio Mozambique or magazines like Melody Maker – but records were available and cheap. We were into The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple – even bands like The Equals from England, who visited Zambia, and a West African fusion band called the Osibisa. They all influenced us".
WITCH was part of "Zam-Rock", the energetic sound of a nation that had just thrown off the British colonial yoke. Though Zambia is now one of the poorest countries in the world, at independence it had the second highest GDP on the continent thanks to its copper industry. Zambians expected great things—prosperity, modernization, and equal standing with the West.
The Zamrock scene was a common feature along the whole line of rail in Zambia (the urban towns) from the border town Chiliabombwe (near Democratic Republic of the Congo) through the Copperbelt, from Kabwe and Lusaka to Livingstone (the last town before Zimbabwe). There were similar performances at clubs, festivals, agricultural and commercial shows, trade fairs etc. in these cities, probably because the sources of music and the influences were similar. The rural areas were not so much influenced by Zamrock or pop music and instead played mostly ethnic traditional music on various occasions and ceremonies. Part of this rural music is the Kalindula genre.
In 1975 they have recorded "Lazy Bones !!" (Zambezi ZTZ 1, 1975), released by the small local Zambezi label and produced by Teal Records Company from South Africa.
Powered by Mbewe's screaming lead guitar (plenty of Fuzz and Wah-Wah pedal effects) and Sinkala's pounding drums these ten original tracks were heavily influenced by American and European Hard-Rock and Blues-Rock outfits. Exemplified by material like the bluesy opener "Black Tears", "Tooth Factory" and "Havoc" the results were tuneful, driving, and thoroughly memorable Rock. Even isolated ballads like the fantastic acoustic guitar powered "Strange Dream" rocked out. All ten tracks featured English lyrics with Changda, Mbewe, and Muma all proving surprisingly accomplished singers. As to the highlights, every one of these songs was worth hearing though "October Night" featured a killer jazzy/rock Mbewe solo, while "Off Ma Boots" sounded like they were channeling a mid-1960s American Garage band.
The band's live shows became the stuff of legend. While the band vamped behind him, Jagari jumped into the crowd from balconies, gyrated like a dervish, screamed or sang as the spirit took him. Shows often went for six hours or more.
The band toured constantly, from Botswana to Kenya—in Malawi, they received a police escort on the way to a concert for the local diplomatic corps.
So here's what the liner notes have to say about the LP: "If you're feeling depressed, low, disturbed, irritable, out-of-sorts, sad, frustrated or wildly demented, then folks, we suggest you seek out a quiet place, indulge in some soothing meditation and cut away that headache by listening to this inspirational album (we've even included a copy of our lyrics to assist those who have difficulty in understanding the messages we transmit, in the hope that this will help them dig the LP in total). We would also like to extend out thanks to all those who have supported us in the past - we wish you well, brothers and sisters. To those of you who have been unkind and deliberately troublesome, we suggest you go jump in the lake specially featured for you on our cover. In closing, a special tribute to out collaborator Shaddick Bwalya for his tremendous contribution to this album. Right on, Witch!"