Despite being the biggest band in Zambia throughout the 1970s, performing insane live shows and inventing their own genre – Zamrock – until recently, W.I.T.C.H. existed in relative obscurity. Due to the diligent work of a few crate diggers, their work has now been repackaged and brought back into the light for us all to enjoy.
Fusing influences that ranged from the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple as well as traditional African rhythms, they spearheaded the Zamrock movement. Releasing the first Zambian pop album in 1973, followed by another four, W.I.T.C.H. dominated the Zambian charts during their five-year lifespan. Largely unknown outside their home country, they finally received the exposure they deserve when Now Again Records re-issued their catalogue in 2012.
At the peak of their popularity, the band often needed police to keep fans at bay while lead singer Emmanuel “Jagari” Chanda (whose name is an Africanisation of Mick Jagger’s) riled up crowds by stage diving from balconies and dancing manically to W.I.T.C.H.’s blend of psychedelic rock and African rhythms. Today a man in his 60s, Jagari has spent his time mining gemstones in Zambia hoping to strike it rich – until very recently, his music just a nostalgic memory of youth.
Jagari has played outside Africa since the reissue and began a collaboration with Dutch psych wizard Jacco Gardner in 2016: the live band they have put together will be showcased at this year’s Liverpool Psych Fest. Joining Jagari onstage to play songs from the group’s mesmerising five album catalog will be Gardner on bass, Jay Whitefield (Whitefield Brothers, Poets Of Rhythm) on lead guitar, Patrick Mwondela (“Disco” WITCH) on keys, Nic Mauskoviç (Eerie Wanda, Altin Gün) on drums and Stefan Lilov (L’Eclair) on rhythm guitar.
W.I.T.C.H. are also the subject of a feature length documentary by Pantheon Pictures, which is currently in production. We Intend To Cause Havoc explores the life and times of Jagari Chanda, and how the group’s music was eventually discovered by a European audience. The final stages of the film will be filmed at Liverpool Psych Fest, closing out the final chapter in Jagari’s amazing story. Jagari will also be in conversation with Gardner and the film’s director Gio Arlotta as part of the festival’s Musings In Drone programme.
W.I.T.C.H. play Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia on Saturday 23rd September.
Full line-up and ticket details can be found at liverpoolpsychfest.com.