Zambia’s greatest rock band WITCH is inseparably linked to the history of Zamrock itself.
Zambia’s greatest rock band WITCH is inseparably linked to the history of Zamrock itself. Since the ’70s, WITCH has been bringing together the sounds of garage, blues and psych rock with African rhythms and grooves.
After disappearing from the public eye for four decades, the iconic band has been revitalized. Their new album, Zango, is WITCH’s first record since 1984 and has all the energy of their classic releases with a fresh sound.
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Having moved through different lineups, iterations and sound changes, WITCH had all but faded away until their 2011 revival. Their entire discography was reissued and made available for the first time outside of Zambia and Southern Africa, inspiring a growing interest in the classic band and its definitive sound.
Unfortunately, most of the original lineup had passed away. Filmmaker and now WITCH manager Gio Arlotta journeyed to Africa to find the last surviving member, frontman Emmanuel ‘Jagari’ Chanda, who was then working as a gemstone miner.
Zambia’s own Searching For Sugar Man, Gio’s WITCH: We Intend To Cause Havoc came out in 2019, documenting the story and revival of the band with a fresh lineup as they toured the world.
The film received critical acclaim, spurring a run of energetic live shows and the band’s return to the studio in 2021 with a revolving door of fantastic players. These musicians include multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner, drummer Nico Mauskovic, and guitarists Stefan Lilov and Jan Weissenfeldt.
Together they built WITCH’s first new record since 1984: Zango, set to be released on June 2 2023. The album tells a story of rebirth and change. Recorded in Lusaka, Zambia, the same location as their 1975 release Lazy Bones, the sound of the album is somehow both vintage and brand new.
From the first bars of the opening track By The Time You Realize listeners are drawn into the brand’s signature sound. A groovy bassline, linear drumming, fuzzy funk guitar and teasing lyrics dive into distorted breakdowns, heading back into the sun for the beautiful chorus. The tone of the record is set.
Lead single Unimvwesha Shuga takes us deep into afro funk territory with clavinet grooves, synth licks and a beautiful set of guest vocals from Theresa Ng’ambi and Hanna Tembo. The lyrics preach connection, love and intimacy.
The standout album feature is Zambia native and sometimes Australia-based rapper Sampa The Great who lends her talents to the track Avalanche Of Love. With a fun music video to boot, the song invites all to groove and feel the beat.
Standout tracks include Stop The Rot and Waile, but the final track Message From WITCH hits home the importance and power of the music – it “erases homophobia, shatters antisemitism, is blind to colour and is sweeter than honey. The message is love”.
WITCH’s Zango will be released on June 2 2023. To give it a listen, head here.